Violence against women is costing us our democracy

23/11/2018

Sergei Stanishev and Zita Gurmai

Sergei Stanishev and Zita Gurmai at the 2017 Stop Violence Against Women action day

Speaking ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), PES Women has warned harassment and violence directed at women in politics is undermining democracy.

Despite several high-profile examples in recent years, including the murder of UK Labour MP Jo Cox, the true scale of the problem is being overlooked.

Almost half (46.9 per cent) of female MPs have received violent threats, including death threats or threats of rape or beating, and 40.5 per cent said they had been sexually harassed at work.[1]

PES Women – which promotes gender equality and women’s representation both inside and outside the Party of European Socialists (PES) – will tackle the issue at its conference at the PES Congress in December. The title of the PES Women conference is: Violence against Women in Politics: A Cost to Democracy!

Zita Gurmai, President of PES Women, said:

“Violence against women in politics encompasses all forms of physical and psychological violence, going from undermining women, mansplaining, online stalking and trolling, to harassment, aggression and assault. It affects women everywhere at every level. Political participation should never be punished. Yet, women who devote themselves to public service face this type of violence just for having a voice. At PES Women we have decided that enough is enough. With the European elections around the corner we want to raise-awareness and create a political environment where it is fair and safe for women to run for office.

“While movements like the #MeToo have provided the necessary visibility, it is time to say STOP to sexual and gender-based violence against women and put in place all possible and necessary means, such as the implementation of the Istanbul Convention as well as the introduction of appropriate legal rights, frameworks, sanctions to the aggressors, awareness-raising, prevention and protection of victims. Combating this should not rest on the shoulders of women. Institutional and judicial systems should be held responsible. Politics should be accessible to all.

The PES fully supports PES Women as they make a stand against violence directed at women in politics.

Sergei Stanishev, President of the PES, said:

“I welcome and support PES Women for drawing attention to this issue. To achieve true democracy with equal representation for women, all types of violence must be eliminated. We need to introduce measures to combat this problem.

“Women make a vital contribution to political life and we need more women in our parliaments. Harassment is one of the biggest barriers women face when trying to enter politics, but it is not the only obstacle. We need an institutional revolution, so equal participation and representation of women and men in political life becomes the norm.”

[1] IPU and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE): Sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments in Europe. Available at: https://www.ipu.org/resources/publications/reports/2018-10/sexism-harassment-and-violence-against-women-in-parliaments-in-europe