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A new PACE initiative to combat sexism and sexual abuse: #NotInMyParliament

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) today launched a new initative to counter sexism and sexual abuse in parliaments across Europe, #NotInMyParliament.

At a ceremony in Helsinki, during a meeting of the Assembly’s Standing Committee, parliamentarians from Council of Europe member States pledged to take action in their national parliaments to eradicate such behaviour.

“Our Assembly must send a loud and clear message that this behaviour is simply unacceptable,” said PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier, who was at the origin of the initiative, launched just ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November).

PACE’s action follows the recent publication of a joint global study by the Parliamentary Assembly and the Interparliamentary Union (IPU) which revealed alarming levels of sexism, harassment and violence against women in national parliaments.

In confidential interviews, 123 women from 45 European countries – including 81 parliamentarians and 42 parliamentary staff – testified to their experiences of psychological, sexual, physical or economic abuse linked to their parliamentary work. They also spoke about the possible causes of such abuse, its effect on their lives, and ways to prevent such behaviour in the future.

Among other things, the study showed that:

• more than 85 per cent of female MPs who took part in the study had faced psychological violence during their terms in office;
• nearly 68 per cent had faced remarks about their physical appearance or rooted in gender stereotypes;
• nearly a quarter of women parliamentarians had been victims of sexual harassment.

“The #MeToo movement has not spared the world of politics,” said Ms Maury Pasquier. “On the contrary, sexism, harassment and violence against women are far too common in Europe’s parliamentary environment. The figures shown by this study are simply unacceptable.”

The President, together with the IPU President, has sent the study to the Speakers of all Council of Europe member States and invited them to follow its recommendations. She also suggested that the initiative could expand beyond the parliamentary world to mobilise a maximum number of people: “Everyone can adapt this hashtag to their own situation, for example #NotInMyTown, #NotInMyUniversity or #NotInMyTeam.”

“In a democracy, the parliament must be an exemplary institution, and a place where women and men can work on an equal footing, with respect and security. This is important not only for the efficiency of the institution, but also for the image of the parliament in the public mind. I count on you all to join in this common effort – to say NO to intimidation, sexist behaviour, harassment and gender violence.”

The Assembly will be arranging a number of events in coming months to press home the message of the initiative.