United Nations General Assembly to Be Briefed on Violence Against Women in Politics

A woman claps.

On October 5th, Dubravka Šimonović, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences (SRVAW), will brief the 73rd UN General Assembly on violence against women in politics (VAWP) and release a dedicated report (A/73/301). The report sends a vital message that VAWP is a human rights violation that contributes to the under-representation and political disempowerment of women worldwide.

The SRVAW finds that while the degree of women’s political participation has improved in the past decades, women remain significantly under-represented at all levels of political decision-making. Reinforcing a rights-based framework to addressing VAWP, the report relates VAWP to the right to live free from gender-based violence, the right to equal participation in political and public life, the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly.

Building on these rights, the report calls on member states, civil society organizations, political parties, electoral stakeholders, and international and regional organizations to take urgent action to implement protective legislation, strengthen complaint mechanisms, collect and monitor relevant data and establish internal regulations and codes of conduct. The report also emphasizes the inclusion, education and training of male allies to support gender equality and the prevention of VAWP, as well as the inclusion of intersectional identities, such as young, indigenous, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals.

The report outlines violence against women in elections (VAWE) as a distinct form of VAWP. Elections represent a critical moment when power is established, and women’s free and fair participation at this stage is crucial to ensuring the establishment of inclusive and resilient democracies. The report emphasizes the potential negative consequences of VAWE in discouraging women from participating in electoral administration, which in turn, may lead to a further reduction in women’s voter turnout and diminish their comfort in the electoral process. The report specifically details the work of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) on “VAWE-Online,” a globally adaptable tool to measure violence against women in elections on social media using sentiment analysis. The tool is a part of VAWE 2.0, launching next week, to incorporate all of IFES’ work on VAWE under one framework.

IFES was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the SRVAW’s work over the past year through multiple channels, alongside an exceptional community of expert organizations, researchers and women and men in politics globally. IFES Senior Gender Specialist Dr. Gabrielle Bardall gave two presentations as an invited expert to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Expert Group Meeting on VAWP in March 2018. IFES prepared a dedicated submission to the SRVAW, based on feedback from an organization-wide survey. Additional IFES publications cited in the SRVAW report include Breaking the Mold: Understanding Gender and Electoral Violence, Violence Against Women in Elections: A Framework for Assessment, Monitoring and Response, and Violence Against Women in Elections in Zimbabwe: An IFES Assessment. Representatives from IFES will be attending events in New York City with the UN General Assembly, coinciding with the release of this report.

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