GENEVA (AN) — For the first time in history, women have a seat in every functioning parliament around the world.
The demise of male-only parliaments is accompanied by an unprecedented level of diversity among the women who are participating in parliaments, the Inter-Parliamentary Union announced Friday.
“The only way to make real progress toward achieving gender equality in parliaments is to share the responsibility between men and women," said IPU President Duarte Pacheco, a Portuguese lawmaker. "I call on my male colleagues in every parliament in the world to work with their female counterparts to move forward and accelerate the pace of change.”
Despite the progress seen in IPU's latest rankings of the percentage of women in national parliaments, the 178-nation global organization says it's accompanied by the smallest increase in women’s participation in six years: a 0.4% rise in the global share of women in parliamentary office.
That means little more than one-in-four parliamentarians worldwide – 26.5% as of the start of 2023 – are women. At this rate, it'll take 80 years to reach true gender parity among lawmakers worldwide.
“There are still too many barriers preventing women from entering parliament or indeed forcing them to leave politics, as we have seen recently," said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong.
"We have the data, tools and solutions to make gender equality a reality by, for example, making parliaments gender-sensitive and free of sexism, harassment and violence," he said. "What we now need is the political will at the highest level to make it happen.”
Progress still 'far too slow'
IPU says women took an average of 25.8% of the seats up for election or appointment in the 47 countries that held elections last year, for a 2.3% increase over the last election cycle.
There were notable gains in women’s representation in Australia, Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Malta and Slovenia, and women fared well in Angolan, Kenyan and Senegalese elections, said IPU.
Japan's male-dominated Senate gave up record numbers of seats to women, it noted, but gains in India's upper chamber fell below global and regional averages.
Pacific nations had the biggest regional gain, 1.7%, for an average 22.6% women in parliament. Fifteen European parliaments were unchanged at an average 31%. The lowest regional percentage, 16.3%, was in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Six nations now have gender parity or a slight women's majority: Rwanda (61.3%), Cuba (53.4%), Nicaragua (51.7%), and Mexico, New Zealand and United Arab Emirates (50%).
For the record, the IPU excludes Afghanistan, Eritrea, Haiti, Myanmar, Sudan, Tunisia, Venezuela and Yemen – all places where no women hold seats – from its list of "functioning" parliaments.
Each woman who gains a seat somewhere adds an important measure of inclusivity, according to Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrianian lawmaker who serves as People's Deputy of Ukraine and is president of IPU's Bureau of Women MPs.
“It’s great to see much more diversity this year in many elections around the world," she said. "But overall progress is far too slow, with half the world’s populations still vastly underrepresented. There is an urgent need to change this to strengthen democracy everywhere.”