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PACE New Resolution Says the Responsibility for Women’s Representation is for the Political Parties

The October Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a Resolution 1898 (2012) – “Political parties and political representation of women” aiming at promoting equality between men and women. Meanwhile the resolution was ignored by the members of the Armenian delegation to PACE, who did not participate in the debate, even though these recommendations directly relate to the countries’ where representation of women in the Parliaments is below 20%.  Notably, there are only 10, 7% of women in the National Assembly of Armenia today, and therefore Armenia’s political parties have to take the European recommendations into consideration.

 

 

PACE consistently advocates for the need of increasing the representation of women at the parliaments in the Council of Europe member states. It is also known that two years ago another resolution almost on the same topic has been adopted. The current resolution referenced 1706 (2010) “Increasing women’s representation in politics through the electoral system”, which recommends reforming their electoral system to one more favorable to women’s representation with a proportional representation list system, consider introducing a mandatory quota which provides not only for a high proportion of female candidates (ideally at least 40%), but also for strict rank-order rule (for example, a “zipper” system of alternating male/female candidates. Moreover, the party was responsible for the increased participation of women in the majoritarian system.

 

The resolution 1898 (2012) also references the “Guidelines on political party regulation” by OSCE/ODIHR and Venice commission published in 2010, which contains examples of effective forms and methods of performance, and an overview of the main human rights instruments related to the issue of women representation in politics.

 

The report was prepared by a Romanian parliamentarian Maria STAVROSITU(Photo). She focused on the fact that on the best practices for promoting gender equality in political parties. Political parties are key players in pluralist democracies. Women’s participation and representation in the political realm and the overall topic of gender equality are vital components in the consolidation of a democracy.

 

“In our member states, women represent approximately 51% of the population, yet only 23.4% of the members of national Parliaments are women. This average figure hides a huge gap, between a handful of countries in which women’s representation in parliament exceeds 40% (Andorra,Finland,Netherlands,Sweden) and many more countries in which it is under 20%, or in some cases even under 10% .

 

 

There is no single formula on how to enhance women’s representation in politics. Each country has followed its own path, influenced strongly by the following: different political traditions; political and electoral systems; the different degree of awareness of the importance of gender equality; the different forms of political decision-making; and many other considerations. Therefore, I believe that the under-representation of women affects the representativeness of democratic institutions, and so far the debate on how to enhance women’s representation in Parliament has focused mainly on safeguards to be introduced in electoral legislation, in particular having a certain minimum percentage of women candidates to be placed on each party’s electoral list – that is the legislated quota. Such quotas are in operation in 13 member states of the Council of Europe.

 

 

In about 30 Council of Europe member states, one or more of the political parties have adopted voluntary quotas to guarantee that a minimum proportion of candidates are women.

To increase interest in the issue of women’s representation, the Parliamentary Assembly decided to set up the gender equality prize, “to reward actions, schemes or initiatives that have been or are in the process of being carried out by political parties and have brought about a significant improvement in women’s participation in elected assemblies, political parties and their respective executives”,  Maria Stavrositu said.

 

 

 

 “The only way to welfare and prosperity is through equality between men and women”

 

 

Marietta POURBAIX-LUNDIN, Sweden parliamentarian also to deliver a speech at the meeting. She noticed that the important amendment is the one about the legal framework for having more representation for women and what the parties can do. We have to separate these things, because we cannot have a law telling parties what to do. The parties should have awareness and put women higher up on the lists – they should be first on the lists. The parties should put a lot of women on lists. That is the responsibility of the parties, but we cannot legislate on that. We can still encourage the parties to promote women.

 

At the hearing of the resolution also voiced her approval to the resolution Stella KYRIAKIDES from Cyprus.

 

“My country,Cyprus, is mentioned in the report as one of many Council of Europe member states where women’s representation in parliament is under 20%. It is documented in the report that in only four of the Assembly’s 47 member states do women have more than 40% representation in national parliaments. Of course, we could follow in the footsteps of Lysistrata, the Athenian woman in Aristophanes’s famous play, who asked her fellow Greek women to withhold sexual privileges from their menfolk to end the Peloponnesian war as a way of applying political pressure to advocate for change, but I would hope that we can solve this issue using less drastic measures…

 

There is no “one size fits all” approach to solving this problem. In some countries, and some political parties, the introduction of legislative quotas, media campaigns and an emphasis on gender mainstreaming have brought about change. In others, the shift has been minimal. It is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed at many levels, but it must be viewed as not just a women’s issue. The commitment to change can be achieved only if the voices are those of men and women together, putting trafficking and violence against women on common agendas.

 

 

There needs to be a basic shift in the stereotypes that our children are brought up with. Those stereotypes are formed early in life through the media and our political and civil society. There need to be clear, targeted policies that facilitate the reconciliation of family and political life for women”, she said.

 

 

Liz CHRISTOFFERSEN from Norway noticed that the Socialist Group strongly supported the report.

“Our group fully supports her request to all political parties to introduce a gender quota. In the Norwegian Labor Party, we have a quota of 50:50 at all levels of government and within the party organization, and it can be followed by sanctions if necessary. The aim of that rule is explicitly stated to be both a question of women’s rights and a means of improving the quality of political decisions by taking advantage in politics of female life experiences.

In addition, if we take the lists of countries with bad habits in both reports and add to them a column showing the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index for 2011, we find a very interesting pattern. The widest gender gaps appear in countries with a bad score on free elections and female representation. If we add a ranking for welfare and living conditions, would anyone be surprised to find another close correlation? The Socialist Group would not. We are convinced – history has proven this – that the only way to welfare and prosperity is through democracy and equal terms for men and women. The opposite will sooner or later prove a dead end”…

 

 

Arpine HOVHANNISYAN, the Member of Armenian Delegation to PACE  mentioned that even though the Resolution remained out of attention compared to other political issues in the agenda, yet it doesn’t meant that Armenia pays no attention to this Resolution. According to Ms. Hovhannisyan, the Resolution once again reinstates the approach of the Council of Europe regarding women’s participation in the political activities.

 

“In fact the Resolution features out two aspects: The first one is addressing the Council of Europe member states on enhancing women’s representation in politics through application of effective mechanisms. The second relates to women’s participation and representation in the work of the PACE and during its structure elections,” says the Parliamentarian.

Does the Resolution mandate certain obligations forArmeniain specific?

“No, the resolution doesn’t mandate any obligation, it just stipulates to guarantee follow-up and continuous steps undertaken by certain countries, andArmeniais among these countries (Note: gender quotas stipulated by the Electoral Code). I think we need to move forward step-by-step since nothing can be achieved at a glance. Even the best idea could fail due to bad performance. I believe the best solution in this case is application of a gradual development approach,” said Arpine Hovhannisyan.

 

 

By Oksana Musaelyan

Strasbourg-Yerevan

 

 

…Setting up measures to enable members to reconcile political engagement and family commitments, for instance by providing free childcare during important party events or during electoral campaigns, and avoiding in so far as possible that party meetings take place at unsociable hours…

By  Resolution 1898 (2012)

 

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