Women usually make up a majority of citizens in a country, but in only a handful of countries do women’s numbers in the parliament reflect such equality. Without equality in representation, the voices and perspective of women cannot be fully reflected in the work of the parliament – laws are passed that are biased against women and the focus of any government scrutiny is less likely to focus on issues important to women.
However, parliaments across the globe have seen a slow increase in the numbers of women elected to serve as Parliamentarians. In some countries the increase in female representation is due to the implementation of gender quotas, while in other countries it is due to other factors including the efforts of one or more political parties or changing perceptions about the role of women in society.
The increases in elected women representatives provide opportunities for women‘s voices and perspectives to be injected into the legislative process. It is important that women parliamentarians are given the same access to resources and opportunities as their male colleagues. For example, women parliamentarians have reported that they are disproportionately assigned to committees that have jurisdiction over subject matter that is deemed more in the sphere of women’s gender roles, such as education or health, rather than committees that handle finances or deal with foreign relations. They are also less likely to be provided with leadership posts within their parliamentary group or the parliament as a whole.
While increasing the proportion of women parliamentarians in parliaments is important, ultimately both male and female parliamentarians are responsible for processing legislation that will affect male and female members of the general public. All parliamentarians, as well as parliamentary leadership, should be made aware of how the legislation and the budget they pass affect women in their society. Mainstreaming gender issues should be the objective of all those working in legislation; to achieve this, knowledge must be transfered, gender responsive budgeting must be reported, the creation of multi-party caucuses, and many other methods could be used.
Women's Caucuses: A Virtual Discussion on AGORA and iKNOW Politics
UN Photo/Martine Perret
AGORA and iKNOW Politics, the International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics, are currently holding a Virtual Discussion on Women's Parliamentary Caucuses. If you are interested in participating or would like to read a daily recap of the ongoing discussion, please visit AGORA's Women's Caucuses page here.
To read the Background Document drawn up for this debate, please click here.
Women of my country, Women to reckon with: The story of women candidates during the 2011 national Constituent Assembly elections in Tunisia’ a 25-minute documentary produced by UNDP Tunisia
The role of women in Tunisia has been a controversial issue throughout the transitional period, with some fearful that they would lose precious rights from the previous era, and others arguing for a return to traditional values. The film pays tribute to the women who were at the forefront of the revolution in Tunisia and competed for a seat in the country’s first free and democratic national elections on 23 October 2011.
The film highlights the path of 5 Tunisian women from across the political spectrum who share their experience of the campaign, speak out for their rights, express their hopes and fears regarding entering politics, and their aspirations for the future.
The film conveys a powerful message in support of women empowerment and gender equality which resonates far beyond the borders of Tunisia. It constitutes a powerful tool for advocacy and raising awareness on women’s political participation around the world and can be used as such to launch events or provide material for discussions on these issues.
Handbook and Supplement for legislation on violence against women
The adoption and enforcement of national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with international human rights standards, is one of the five key outcomes which the Secretary-General’s campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” aims to achieve in all countries by 2015.
In May 2008, the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDAW/DESA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized an expert group meeting in Vienna, Austria, on good practices in legislation on violence against women. That meeting prepared a model framework for legislation on violence against women, including detailed recommendations, commentaries and examples of promising practices. The framework contained two types of recommendations: those that are applicable to all forms of violence against women; and those that are specific to domestic violence or sexual violence.
In 2009, based on the work of the expert group meeting in Vienna, UNDAW/DESA developed a Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women. This Handbook, with a foreword by Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, intends to provide all stakeholders with detailed guidance to support the adoption and effective implementation of legislation that prevents violence against women, punishes perpetrators, and ensures the rights of survivors everywhere. It is specifically hoped that the Handbookwill be of use to government officials, parliamentarians, civil society, staff of United Nations entities and other actors in their efforts at ensuring that a solid legal basis is in place for tackling the scourge of violence against women.
Videos on the model framework for legislation
In March 2009, the Chairperson (P. Imrana Jalal) and Rapporteur (Cheryl Thomas) of the expert group meeting on good practices in legislation to address violence against women came together to discuss the model framework for legislation and some of its key provisions. In the three videos below, the Chairperson and Rapporteur:
Provide an overview of the model framework and discuss recommendations for legislation applicable to all forms of violence against women
Discuss specific recommendations for legislation on domestic violence
Discuss specific recommendations for legislation on sexual violence
For more information on this subject, please also see: