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The number of women parliamentarians creeps up _ but equality is a long way off

The number of women parliamentarians creeps up _ but equality is a long way off

The number of women serving in parliaments around the world crept up to a new record this year _ but women aren't even half way to achieving equality with men in national legislative bodies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union said in its annual report card.
IPU Secretary-General Anders Johnsson told a news conference that on Jan. 1, 17.7 percent of the legislators in parliaments were women, up from 16.3 percent at the end of 2005 and 15.7 percent in December 2004.
"It is progress, but if you ask me it is very slow progress," Johnsson said Friday. "If you try to look beyond, down the road to see when do we reach gender equality in parliament, it is still very, very far off into the distant future, unfortunately."
At the current rate, he said, "we will not achieve parity in parliament before 2050."
The 1995 U.N. women's conference in Beijing set a target of having a minimum of 30 percent women lawmakers in all parliaments.
According to the IPU, there are just 20 countries where women hold over 30 percent of the seats in the lower house or single legislative chamber, the same number as at the end of 2005. Four of those countries have reached 40 percent or more.
Rwanda remains at the top of the list with 48.8 percent women members followed by Sweden with 47 percent, Finland with 41.5 percent and Argentina with 40 percent, the IPU said.
Half the countries above 30 percent are from the developing world including Costa Rica, Cuba, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania.
Regionally, the Nordic countries retain their dominance, but the IPU said significant strides have been made in Latin America where the average number of women in parliament was over 20 percent.
The United States ranked 71st _ below the average _ with women comprising 16.8 percent of the House of Representatives and 16 percent of the Senate.
At the bottom of the list are seven countries where women represent less than 3 percent of parliament members, including Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen. Eight countries have no women legislators at all, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Pacific island nations of Micronesia, Nauru, Oman, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
Looking at the countries with high female representation, Johnsson said, the common denominator is that most have introduced some sort of quota system. Johnsson said all but three countries where more than 30 percent of parliamentarians are women have introduced quotas. The three that didn't have quotas are Finland, Denmark and Cuba, he said.
"All men and women politicians agree that quotas is just a temporary measure _ it is just to get us ... over the hump so to speak," Johnsson said.
Hilary Armstrong, a member of Britain's parliament from the governing Labor party, said all-women shortlists used by the party to choose candidates to run for some seats in the House of Commons have been declared legal _ and of the 126 women MPs, 96 are Labor members.
The opposition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats "have now been deeply embarrassed by their lack of getting women into positions," she said, and they are scrambling to find ways to increase the representation of women in winnable seats without all-women shortlists which they criticized.
Armstrong said the fact that constituencies with women candidates showed about a 1.5 percent extra vote "was very powerful" and demonstrated that the electorate supports more women in parliament.
Johnsson lamented that only 7 of the 150 elected heads of state, and 8 of the 192 elected heads of government are women.
But the IPU reported a growing number of countries with more women in ministerial positions.
Finland topped the list with 57.9 percent of ministerial positions filled by women followed by Norway with 55.6 percent, Grenada with 50 percent, and Sweden, France, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Chile, all with more than 40 percent.
Thirteen countries did not have a single female minister _ including Bosnia, Libya, Myanmar, Romania, Singapore, North Korea and several Pacific island nations.
Sharon Hay Webster, a member of Jamaica's parliament, noted that 91 women are ministers of social affairs while only 19 are ministers of economy and development and just 17 are ministers of finance and budget.
"I wish I was dyslexic and that we could see a shift," she said. "We need to focus on turning that table. I think when we get more women appointed in the executive at that decision-making level (dealing with finance and the economy), we can change the face of poverty."


Updated : 2021-06-21 22:15 GMT+08:00