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Progress is 'slow and mixed' for women joining national parliaments

IPU's chief Martin Chungong says its statistics show that 'women bear the brunt of the hate in the political space.'

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola (AN/)

GENEVA (AN) — A new report shows the share of women’s seats in the top elected chambers at capitals around the world grew by just 0.4% last year.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union's latest Women in Parliament report on Tuesday found 26.9% of the elected posts went to women in 2023. That's on pace with 2022, but slower than the 0.6% growth rate in 2021 and 2020.

Three countries had a greater share of women than men and three had parity in the lower or single chambers of their parliaments, IPU said.

The top chambers for women's representation were Rwanda, 61.3%, followed by Cuba, 55.75%, and Nicaragua, 53.9%. Andorra, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates each had parity.

Parliamentary elections in 2023 covered 66 chambers in 52 countries. Women's reprentation rose in 32 of those chambers, while the share of women fell in 19 others and remained roughly the same in 15 others.

Gender issues were a high voter priority, particularly in nations like Argentina and Poland where women’s reproductive rights is contentious.

The data is particularly important heading into 2024, when about half the world's population is expected to head to national polls.

More than 70 parliamentary chambers will hold elections this year, up from 65 last year, according to IPU data.

By region, the Americas, at 35.1%, showed the highest proportion of women representatives in government. The Middle East and North Africa was lowest, at 16.5%.

Bearing 'the brunt of the hate'

The report cites a worrying trend of women quitting politics in 2023, saying they "often cited burnout and fatigue" amid multiple crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia's war in Ukraine and inflation.

The most prominent were Jacinda Ardern's decision to leave her post as New Zealand's prime minister and not to stand again for her parliamentary seat, and Sanna Marin's loss as Finland's prime minister in the April election and decision to resign as an MP and quit politics.

A more sinister trend found they frequently had "the additional challenge of violence and personal attacks, which are becoming increasingly widespread and virulent with the advancement of digital tools."

Iceland's parliament bucked the trend by adopting a strategy and action plan against bullying and sexual and gender-based harassment.

“We are seeing some growth and historic firsts for women in parliament this year but we’re also witnessing some worrying trends," said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong.

"Our data shows that women bear the brunt of the hate in the political space, and that trend seems to be exacerbated with the emergence of artificial intelligence," he said. "We must be vigilant and support parliaments as they step up and put in place measures to become safe spaces for both women and men.”

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