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Women worldwide want more parliament seats

Globally only one in five lawmakers is female, meeting is told

Participants at the speakers' conference in New Delhi. Participants at the speakers' conference in New Delhi.
  • Swati Deb, New Delhi
  • India
  • October 5, 2012
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The annual meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament has resolved to work towards increasing women’s representation in legislatures and other elected bodies around the world.

The two-day meeting of the world’s female parliamentary speakers, which wrapped up in New Delhi yesterday, focused on “Gender Sensitive Parliaments.”

The resulting “New Delhi Declaration” adopted yesterday pledged to ensure “supportive electoral laws and temporary special measures” such as reservation initiatives taking place in India to encourage more participation of women in elected bodies.

India is proposing a 33 percent allocation for women in the national parliament and state legislatures. It has already introduced quotas on village councils.

This and the move towards quotas at national level was praised by the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, in her speech at the opening session.

She said village quotas had brought a sharp increase in local women leaders and that the “world was awaiting” what will happen at national level.

“Quotas have spurred one of the greatest successes globally in women’s empowerment and grassroots democracy in India,” Bachelet said.

The Women Reservation Bill for parliament and state legislatures was passed in 2010 by India’s Upper House but has yet to pass through the Lower House.

Globally, there is only one woman lawmaker for every four men according to the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), one of the chief organizers of the meeting.

“There has been a sea change in the last 15 years both for India and across the globe. However, it is not up to the mark,” IPU secretary-general Anders B. Johnsson said.

Austrian Speaker Barbara Prammer stressed general awareness on the issue of encouraging women into politics and parliament.

“At the end of the day, we must understand the basic issue is that, for every one more woman MP, we have one man less. There is a challenge to reconcile to this.”

Tanzania’s Speaker Anne Makinda said the global economic slowdown had forced many governments to do away with social welfare measures, which has hampered women's greater participation in politics.

“However, it will not be proper to leave the political realm to men only,” she underlined.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, who opened the meeting, said gender sensitive parliaments can address, more insightfully, social problems that women face such as violence, female feticide and human trafficking.

The annual meeting is organized so women speakers can exchange ideas and experiences on gender issues.

Currently, only 37 women preside over one of the houses of the world’s 190 parliaments.

Related report

Women must be part of decision process
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