Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,
Thank you for joining me today for this discussion.
As a former Parliamentarian, and a lifelong politician, violence against women in politics is an issue near to my heart. It is a moral and ethical failure on us as a society. It directly hinders the participation of women in politics and manifests in physical, psychological, and sexual forms, both offline and online.
The prevalence of these acts of violence are deeply rooted in stereotyping and biases that target female politicians simply because they are women.
In addition to the violation of human rights, violence against women in politics creates additional—and at times deadly—obstacles to women’s active and meaningful participation in politics.
Women are being increasingly antagonized with misogynist and sexist hate speech across public spheres and in the media, especially in social media.
The intent is to discourage women from stepping into the public sphere and send a strong negative signal to those who are still considering it.
Firstly, the techniques are often the same as the controlling, manipulation, intimidation, and psychological pressures used by perpetrators of domestic violence.
Secondly, the opposing messages and narratives are deeply rooted in cultural norms and prejudices on the role and place of women in society.
These latent manifestations of inequality and discrimination are used to control and keep women in subordinate positions in society, denying them hard-won rights to participate in public decision-making.
Alienating women from political processes thus, undermines democratic processes at large. Low numbers of women in politics can negatively impact political institutions’ commitment to women’s issues and gender equality.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
The magnitude and consequences of this problem are not to be overlooked.
Let me be frank, violence against women in politics is both morally undignified and unjustified.
Not only has the problem resulted in the ruthless and unfortunate demise of dedicated and passionate leaders, but it continues to undermine the rights of women to freely and equally participate in society.
I commend initiatives that are paving the way for change, such as gender quotas, the repeal of discriminatory laws, and redressing of structural and normative barriers, all of which are proving to empower women to participate in politics.
As a result of these corrective measures, women today occupy 26.1 percent of parliamentary seats globally, compared to 13.1 per cent in 2000. The share of women parliamentary speakers has also increased from 8.3 percent in 2005 to 24.7 percent in 2021.
Sadly, the news is not all good; studies have shown that as the participation of women in politics increase, violence against women in politics has also increased.
This points to two distinctive factors: first, more women are breaking their silence and second; countermeasures to address violence have been woefully insufficient.
Efforts to promote women’s political leadership have rarely been coupled with mechanisms to ensure their security and well-being in the public sphere.
Political systems are often patriarchal systems that are resistant to change and violent when challenged.
While politicians of all genders encounter threats and intimidation, female candidates and politicians face unique risks. They are often targeted because of their identity as women.
Moreover, the threats and harassment often comes from multiple sides: not only from opposition parties, but also from women’s own colleagues and communities.
Violence and harassment inhibits women’s equal participation in politics by discouraging them to run for office, undermining their electoral fortunes, or forcing them to ally with powerful male counterparts for protection or compromising their political agenda in other ways.
Clearly, we must do more to eliminate the pervasiveness of this violence.
As a member of parliament for 25 years, I have devoted my entire career to the values and principles of equality, inclusion, and democracy. They are principles that color my commitments as gender champion, as well as my priorities as a “President of Hope” among which, is respecting the rights of all.
As one of the survivors of gender-based violence, whom I had the privilege of meeting, had rightly stated – “the people who have the solutions to the world’s most difficult problems are the people who live it every day”.
Ending violence against women in politics will require this survivor-centered approach and the recognition of sexism, harassment, and violence against women as real problems in the political arena.
It requires an understanding of the full spectrum of risks that arise from the structural barriers and social norms of ‘a woman’s place’.
And it requires data-driven and context-specific strategies for effective protection and promotion of the participation and rights of women politicians.
Women must also be equipped with the tools to respond to threats that they will face while seeking office or governing, and mechanisms to effectively report and respond to these threats must be strengthened.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
I want to acknowledge the presence of Ambassador Besiana, Permanent delegate of Albania to UNESCO in our midst today. As the former Permanent Representative of Albania to the UN she wanted me to focus on this issue. Her call was also supported by all the women Permanent Representatives.
Subsequently, when I had hosted a meeting of Women Heads of State and Government during the high-level week last year and during all my interactions over the last six months with women Ministers and leaders during my travels abroad and at the UN, everyone expressed their growing concern with the increasingly rampant and highly misogynistic form of violence against women in politics.
Politicians, the media, the private sector, and civil society organizations, whose representatives are here with us today, we all have a role to play in eliminating the hostile rhetoric that contributes to this violence, to oppose unacceptable social norms that target women, and to bring an end to violence against women in politics.
Women must feel safe to actively lead and influence laws within their parliaments, to take leadership roles in governments and be able to freely pursue their career path in politics.
From fighting violence in the family to public stigma against women, from economic empowerment to getting women into decision-making roles, let us work together to break the bias.
And let us be frank and candid in our discussions.
I look forward to a very productive session.
I thank you.