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Stepping up legislative and awareness-raising work to combat sexism against women parliamentarians

Speaking at an event in Geneva on violence against women parliamentarians, on the sidelines of the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council, PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier made the point that the joint IPU/PACE study conducted in 2018 showed that almost all of the women interviewed (parliamentarians and female parliamentary staff) had been affected in one way or another by sexism, harassment and violence.

“In this context, parliamentarians have a twofold role: at legislative level, they must adopt a clear legal framework to punish abuses and promote equality education. They must also raise awareness in order to change attitudes,” she said. “This is the purpose of the #NotInMyParliament campaign that we launched at the end of 2018,” the President added, suggesting that this initiative could expand beyond the parliamentary sphere to engage as many people as possible: “Everyone can adapt this hashtag and take ownership of the campaign”.

Thorhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), PACE rapporteur on “Promoting parliaments free of sexism and sexual harassment”, underlined the “vital awareness-raising and mobilisation work” of parliaments to change attitudes, and the need to ensure that there was a clear prohibition of all acts of sexism and harassment – as was the case in the Icelandic parliament – along with effective sanctions. “It is essential to promote country-level studies, based on the IPU/PACE study,” she said.

Béatrice Fresko-Rolfo (Monaco, ALDE), PACE general rapporteur on violence against women, who moderated the discussion, highlighted the key role of the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence, which she co-ordinates. “The Network has tirelessly campaigned to improve legal and political standards in the area of prevention of violence against women, the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators of violence,” she said, adding that promoting the Istanbul Convention remained a central part of its task.

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong presented the results of the IPU/PACE study, pointing out that very few women reported abuses. “This issue must be urgently addressed by parliaments. The lack of a mechanism to report abuses is symptomatic of a lack of understanding of this problem,” he said. Mr Chungong added that the IPU would be publishing further regional studies and was also planning to publish a compilation of the good practices identified at global level this coming autumn.

The aim of this event – organised by PACE, the IPU, UN Women, the Permanent Missions of Canada and Costa Rica to the UN, and the French Chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers – was to take stock of ongoing legal and political initiatives to end violence against women in politics, share experiences and strengthen partnerships at global, regional and national levels.

In the margins of the session of the Human Rights Council, Ms Maury Pasquier also met with Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.