‘It Is Brutal.’ U.N. Says Violence and Verbal Abuse Are Keeping Women Out of Politics

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(UNITED NATIONS) — When it comes to political power, women are totally outnumbered by men, accounting for less than 7% of the world’s leaders and only 24% of lawmakers, according to the latest statistics.

U.N. General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa told delegates to the Commission on the Status of Women on Tuesday that there has been a “serious regression” in the political power of women across the world in recent years.

According to statistics from the Inter-Parliamentary Union released last week, the percentage of female elected heads of state dropped from 7.2% to 6.6% — 10 out of 153 — from 2017 to 2018. The percentage of female heads of government dropped from 5.7% to 5.2% — 10 out of 193 — in the same period.

“Despite some positive movement, the overwhelming majority of government leaders remain male,” said Gabriela Cuevas Barron, head of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

In parliaments, the global share of women increased by nearly one percentage point from 2017 to 2018, to 24.3%. But Cuevas said at a news conference that it took 25 year to get to that figure, from 11% in 1995.

“That’s why we believe we need to encourage parliaments to have affirmative action,” she said.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of U.N. Women, called the current environment “not the most enabling for women to rise.”

“We also have pushback right now, which contributes to the slowing down of women wanting to contest for office, because it is brutal,” she said, citing political violence, verbal abuse, and abuse on social media that female candidates and politicians face in many countries.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “called on us to push back against the pushback — so we just have to be stronger in pushing back against the pushback ourselves.”

Women must be “change-makers,” she said, because national and global institutions were “made for men and by men.”

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