Equality in Politics: A Survey of Women and Men in Parliaments
Author: Inter Parliamentary Union
Size: 118 pages (1.73)
This paper presents the results of a survey (2006-2008) on how parliamentarians are working to attain gender equality in national politics. Respondents identify four factors that are most influential in creating a more gender-sensitive parliament: 1) the support of the ruling party in parliament; 2) the work of parliamentary committees; 3) the work of cross-party networks of women; and 4) the rules that govern the functioning of parliament.
The research is based on responses from 272 parliamentarians in 110 countries, and involved personal interviews with 20 parliamentarians. Forty percent of the survey respondents were male.
Although the number of women in parliaments around the world has been increasing steadily over the past decade, in 2008 women still occupied less than 18 percent of all parliamentary seats. Men and women entering politics are deterred by different factors. For men, perceived lack of support from the electorate can discourage their entry into politics, while for women domestic responsibilities are seen as the single most important deterrent. In addition, women face different obstacles to winning a seat in parliament, including prejudice and cultural perceptions about the role of women. Respondents identified the adoption of electoral quotas and the implementation of sensitisation programmes as important mechanisms for overcoming such obstacles.
The survey finds that women parliamentarians have redefined legislative priorities to include women's concerns and perspectives. In particular, women in parliaments in all regions of the world are at the forefront of efforts to combat gender-based violence. Women have been instrumental in ensuring that issues such as parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws and electoral reforms that enhance women's access to parliaments appear on the legislative agenda. In addition, responses indicate that:
Findings suggest that the number of women in parliament matters because, at the very least, the more women there are in parliament, the easier it is to address women's issues and to change the gender dynamics in the chamber. In addition, while some men in parliament raise issues of concern to women, more needs to be done to forge constructive partnerships between men and women. Respondents identify several structural changes that could help to promote women's access to and full participation in parliament. These include:
Inter Parliamentary Union, 2008, ‘Equality in Politics: A Survey of Women and Men in Parliaments’, Reports and Documents No. 24, IPU, Geneva