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Offbeat Women Are Still Underrepresented in Parliaments Around The World

00:25  05 september  2018
00:25  05 september  2018 Source:   usnews.com

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This tendency is still persistent, although women are increasingly being politically elected to be heads of state and government.[2] As of January 2017, the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments is 23.3 Women running for U.S senate are often underrepresented in news coverage.

Burundi, for example, has one of the highest allocations of seats in parliament for women . Statistics of women participation in politics state once again that women still remain underrepresented in Because of lack of support, women continue to be underrepresented in politics around the world .

Members of the National Assembly are sworn in at the South African Parliament during the first sitting of the National Assembly after elections held in South Africa, in Cape Town, South Africa, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. South Africa held its first sitting of Parliament on Wednesday, after recent elections, to swear in new members of parliament and to formally elect President Jacob Zuma as head of state. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam): Members of the National Assembly are sworn in at the South African Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa on May 21, 2014. Women occupy 42.4 percent of the country's parliamentary seats, according to data compiled by the IPU.© (Schalk van Zuydam/AP) Members of the National Assembly are sworn in at the South African Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa on May 21, 2014. Women occupy 42.4 percent of the country's parliamentary seats, according to data compiled by the IPU.

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The list of female world leaders is still relatively short despite years of progress. Even when women have made it to power, they've rarely led for a long time. Despite gains, women remain underrepresented among U.S. political and business leaders.

With women comprising of over 50% of the world population, the promises of democracy cannot be truly realised if half of the population remains underrepresented in the political arena. In 2017, it just is not acceptable that politics around the world are still in many ways dominated by men.

Yet women in positions of power are still a rare find on the global political map. This, despite more countries introducing so-called "gender quotas," rules that dictate a percentage of seats in a parliament – usually at least 30 percent – be filled by women based on specific criteria. These requirements are mentioned in countries' constitutions or in the electoral laws. According to data from the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance, currently more than 30 countries have a gender quota mentioned in their constitution.

"The world average today is 23.8 percent of women (in parliaments) worldwide," says Kareen Jabre, director of the division of programs at the Switzerland-based Inter-Parliamentary Union or IPU, an organization made up of national parliaments from around the world that aims to spur political dialogue. "In the past two years there has been relatively modest progress in terms of world average where we had just an 0.5 percentage-point increase. But in previous years we did have some bumps of 1 to 2 percentage points increase, so the trend is positive."

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Yet women are still under - represented in most parliaments in the world . The Inter- Parliamentary Union in 2016 published a self-assessment toolkit for parliaments around the world to assess their gender sensitivity.

Women are finally at the top of a major-party presidential ticket, but they're still far underrepresented among lawmakers. Women make up around 19 percent of all members of Congress and less than 25 percent of all state legislators.

Still, the goal of having female representation in elected seats come close to matching female representation in the overall population seems distant, Jabre adds.

As of June 2018, the countries reporting the highest percentage of women in their parliament, ranked by the lower house, are:

  • Rwanda, with more than 61 percent in the country's House and 38.5 percent in the Senate (Rwanda also ranks highest in labor participation among women and reports a lower pay gap than in the U.S.).
  • Cuba, with 53.2 percent in the unicameral parliament.
  • Bolivia, with 53.1 percent in the House and 47.2 percent in the Senate.
  • Grenada, with 46.7 percent in the House and 15.4 percent in the Senate.
  • Namibia, with 46.2 percent in the House and 24.4 percent in the Senate.

According to the IPU data, the bottom five countries are Yemen, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia and Oman. The world's largest economy – the United States – ranks low, at No. 102, with just 19.5 percent of women occupying seats in the U.S. House and 22 percent in the Senate. Its main economic competitor, China, ranks 70th, with around a quarter of its legislative seats occupied by women.

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While “remarkable progress” in education has been seen in the last 20 years, girls are still underrepresented globally in secondary schools and universities, particularly in developing countries. Political representation. Worldwide, only around a fifth of parliamentary seats are held by women

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Does Proportional Gender Representation Really Work?

Closing the gender gap has long been a priority in many democracies and international groups yet 2017 witnessed some unfavorable trends. For the first time in more than a decade, the World Economic Forum, or WEF, reported gender parity "shifting into reverse." The WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index compares gender disparities across four dimensions -- health outcomes, educational attainment, economic participation and political participation – for 144 nations. Last year, the gender gap stood at 32 percent against 31.7 percent reported in 2016, with the largest disparities remaining in economic participation and political empowerment.

Political participation is by far the widest gap, at about 23 percent, the same level reported the previous year. At the current pace of improvement, the gender gap in political participation around the world will be closed in 99 years, according to the WEF report.

However, countries reporting high levels of gender representation are often not the best ones for women overall, such as Rwanda or Bolivia, say experts. Many of these countries have recently revised laws governing political participation, often after times of conflict. As a result, daily quality of life lags behind legal frameworks that appear equitable.

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While Germany has its first female leader and France could soon follow, women are still underrepresented in most European legislatures. With 47.3 percent women , Sweden's parliament is a rare case of near gender equality.

According to a new report from the Women 's Media Center, women are both under - and misrepresented in the media. Unsurprisingly, white men still dominate fields such as sports journalism, op-ed sections, and Sunday talk shows.

Yet good things did eventually happen.

"In Rwanda, one of the things that women did when they arrived in certain numbers in parliament is (use) legislative powers to put forward a bill on violence against women," Jabre says. "Bolivia is one of the first countries that has worked on (a bill against violence toward women in politics) and this is also because of the presence of women who are bringing forward new issues and pushing for them: child rights, social affairs." Still, Rwanda and Bolivia face serious human rights abuse challenges, in particular sexual violence against women and children.

While there is no direct correlation between ranking high in gender representation and ranking high in guarding women's rights, there does seem to be a correlation between those countries ensuring women's rights and the number of women found in those countries' parliaments. The IPU's global top 20 in gender representation includes several European countries known for their human and gender rights work, such as Finland (No. 11), Norway (No. 13), Spain (No. 15), France (No. 16) and Iceland (No. 20). Such a connection reflects other aspects of society, experts say.

"The Nordic countries that are pretty high up there in terms of representation in government, whether in the parliament or at the ministerial level or head of state level, have pretty progressive policies in terms of other areas of women's equality, like subsidized child care," says Antonia Kirkland, global lead for legal equality and access to justice at Equality Now, a non-governmental organization that aims to protect women's and girls' rights around the world. Others countries, such as Tunisia, which ranks highest in gender representation among the Middle Eastern and North African countries, have also seen progressive law reforms throughout the years; Tunisia just recently adopted an act that exempts sexual offenders from marrying their victims.

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What Does it Take?

Better gender representation in politics can come in many ways, say experts, yet many obstacles remain – particularly in countries with a much longer history of institutions that were designed by men.

"When you have a newer constitution and government, perhaps you have women in mind in terms of quotas, but in many places women weren't involved and they were in fact excluded from the origins of these institutions," says Kelly Dittmar, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University–Camden and scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics. "This makes it harder for these institutions to both accommodate women and women's background and their roles in society."

Gender-imposed quotas in parliament are an extreme measure for progress that should come from cultural values, experts say, who add that women shouldn't be elected to dedicated seats, but encouraged to participate in politics in much higher numbers.

Activists say the most important steps have yet to be taken by parties that appear uneager to support women running for office. This is despite research showing that when women run, they hold the same chances of winning as their male counterparts or even work harder while in office.

"Political parties are not always the most transparent structures and (as a woman) you have to get acquainted by them and figure your way in," Jabre says. "And that's often not easy for women at all. Holding political parties more accountable – which is something that some of the laws are pushing for, to be more transparent and to actually open the door to women – is definitely one key strategy for change."

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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