Gender parity in politics “possible within a generation”

A growing number of women in parliament indicate an encouraging trend towards equality

Gender parity in parliament could be possible within a generation, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Its latest annual analysis of trends on women in parliament reveals that female MPs accounted for 21.8% of all parliamentarians by the end of 2013, up from 20.3% the previous year, and representing a rate of increase triple that of 2011, which saw a rise of just 0.5%.

“A 1.5% increase may sound negligible and nearly 22% in overall figures for women MPs is dismal. But after years of minimal growth, the last two years have witnessed a major rise in the numbers of women in parliament due to concerted political action,” said IPU secretary general Anders B Johnsson.

“With sustained political will and action, we could envisage gender parity in women’s political participation within a generation and the realisation of a core tenet of democracy.”

The findings reveal that while the Americas lead as the region with the highest average number of female MPs (25.2%), it was the Arab world that witnessed the biggest regional jump of the year, rising from 13.2% to 16% thanks to the appointment of 30 women to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council.

The year also saw a growing awareness of political violence against women. Electoral violence, which includes intimidation, threats and assault both before and after election, is a common deterrent to women’s participation in politics around the world.

“Countries such as Bolivia and Mexico have taken the lead by passing legislation to redress an issue that perhaps more than any other blocks women from political involvement,” said Johnsson.

“Others also need to act. Without a serious commitment to ending violence against women in the parliamentary chamber, within political parties, across the parliamentary floor and in public or in private, the road to women´s political empowerment everywhere will be a long and arduous one.”