Sexist Violence, Harassment Against Women In Parliament Is ‘Real And Widespread’, IPU Report Says


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Women members of parliament in all regions face sexism, harassment and violence from male lawmakers and are increasingly targeted by online humiliation campaigns, a report says.

The first study on the issue by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) follows scandals in France and other countries where women have denounced abuse in the corridors of power.

Sexist violence and harassment against women lawmakers is “real and widespread”, the report said.

The findings suggested “the phenomenon knows no boundaries and exists to different degrees in every country, affecting a significant number of women parliamentarians”.

The results were based on data provided by 55 women parliamentarians of all ages who were selected from 39 countries in five regions — including Africa, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Americas and the Arab world.

Four out of five of the women reported having been subjected to hostile behaviour causing psychological harm or fear.

Some 44.4 per cent said they had received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction during their terms.

“The respondents said that most of these acts were committed by their male colleagues — from opposing or their own parties,” it said.

Gillard received double online the insults Rudd did

The report also noted how a recent study conducted in the US, Australia and the United Kingdom confirmed the extent to which women politicians are being harassed online.

It noted the example of Julia Gillard, who received twice as many tweets containing insults and offensive comments as Kevin Rudd between January 2010 and January 2014.

According to an article from 2014, which was also referenced in the report, 60 per cent of women in Australia between the ages of 18 and 21, and 80 per cent of women over 31, said they were less likely to become candidates after observing the extent to which women were disparaged in the media.

Being under 40 — or belonging to the opposition or a minority group — are “aggravating factors” that put women at risk, according to the study by the Geneva-based body, which links 171 national parliaments.

The IPU called for male and female MPs to denounce such behaviour and for codes of conduct and complaint procedures to be put in place.

Females account for 22.8 per cent of some 46,000 parliamentarians worldwide.

“The report … is an eye-opener, it’s the first of its kind,” IPU secretary-general Martin Chungong told a news briefing.

“We have gone out to interview members of parliament, to have their own personal perspectives, from their own experience.

“We are looking at how we can help resolve some of these issues, because they are actually a stumbling block to political participation of women.”

Women lawmakers endure hostile behaviour and sexist violence in parliamentary offices and political meetings, as well as the newer arenas created by social media, the report said.

Women MPs from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East “described photomontages showing them nude, photos of them accompanied by disparaging comments, obscene drawings of their person or information published in the social media suggesting that they had had marital problems and failed private lives,” the report said.

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