“The scourge of widespread and systematic gender based violence against women is deeply rooted in discrimination against women and continues to shape the lives of female politicians, activists, and voters around the world, with devastating impact not only on the victims, but also on democracy itself” cautioned the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic.
“From the most commonplace acts of harassment and sexual harassment, to misogynistic and sexist verbal attacks, much of it increasingly online, women are persistently undermined and discouraged from being politically active,” said the expert. “The aim of such violence is to preserve traditional gender roles and stereotypes and maintain structural and gender-based inequalities,” she added.
“The murder of British Member of Parliament Jo Cox, in 2016; the killing in March 2018 of a prominent Afro-Brazilian human rights defender, Marielle Franco, and the assassination in 2016 of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres, demonstrate just how far political adversaries will go to restrict women’s access to the political arena,” warned Ms. Simonovic.
“However political adversaries are not the only culprits, women can be subjected to violence by their peers, family members or friends in an attempt to discourage them from entering politics” stressed the expert, “while a culture of silence, stigma and impunity associated with gender-based violence, often means impunity for perpetrators” she added.
“Urgent action must be taken by States, and non-State actors, including political parties, as well as international organizations and independent monitoring mechanisms, civil society organisations, and women’s rights movements (such as the # Metoo movement), to prevent and combat gender-based violence against women in politics and elections” stressed the expert.
“All women in politics, whether at the national or international level, must be empowered to tackle the culture of silence against gender-based violence¸ to speak up and report such violence to appropriate national and international mechanisms, in order to hold the perpetrators accountable,” said Ms. Simonovic, and “only then can we achieve equality between women and men in political and public life and eradicate gender-based violence against women,” she concluded.
The Special Rapporteur highlighted her concerns surrounding the impact of violence against women in politics in her recent report* presented to the UN General Assembly on 5 October.
Download full report here here