Women MPs participate in plenary sessions as equally as their male counterparts but none had ever revealed what happens to them behind the scene. News has it, in several countries their immunity applies only in the plenary.
The international Organization of Parliaments –IPU in a study released yesterday, has found that violence, harassment and sexism against women in parliament are major challenges to democracy and gender equality in countries around the world.
Through deep interviews with 55 female MPs from 39 countries that were kept a secret in the study, respondents said they face psychological violence including abuse of all sorts, sexual and physical violence very frequently.
Death, rape, beatings as well as kidnap are some specific threats the female legislators say they face. Social media are reported as the main channel of the violence.
According to the findings, 81.8 per cent of respondents have lived a kind of psychological violence while 44 per cent received threats against them and their descendants during their parliamentary terms.
Moreover, 65.5 per cent were subject to sexual violence through embarrassing comments during their term and 20 per cent of them consider this action as “common practice”.
A number of respondents estimated to 7 per cent also said they were, at several occasions forced to sexual relations, while 42, 7 per cent faced physical violence especially with weapons.
“This is a survey of a small percentage of women MPs, but it is clear the problem is much more widespread and under-reported than we realize,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong.
Even though the study doesn’t mention a specific country as a case study, it is clear that European and Asian countries were mostly consulted based on the repetitive comments and testimonies from different female MPs.
In Africa, Nigeria and Kenya were cited among countries where female MPs are experiencing physical and sexual violence. In Nigeria, a MP was beaten and seriously injured while in Kenya, she was sexually harassed while in Japan for a mission.
Rwanda which was ranked first by the recent Save the Children report for having a highest proportion of female MPs in the world with-62% seats, is mentioned nowhere with any kind of violence against female MPs.
“I have never faced any kind of threat and I never heard any colleague complaining, ” Annonciata Mukarugwiza, a female MP and member of the Gender Committee at lower chamber of the parliament told KT Press.
“I heard this kind of violence in neighboring countries but I didn’t pay much attention to it. As far as I know it never happened in Rwanda,” said Marie Immaculee Ingabire, the chairperson of Transparency International-Rwanda chapter.
“Our female MPs are respected people who have built their career up to their actual position and thus can never face such harassment. Is normally exposed to such harassment every female MP who does no merit,” said Edouard Munyamariza, president of Rwanda Men Resource Center(Rwamrec), a non-government organization which fights for gender equality.
“We see, in some plenary sessions across the world MPs fighting. What would you expect behind the scene? The physically weak (woman) is likely to face violence in such countries.”
For Munyamariza, “it would be deplorable, if such violence was in our parliament with large majority of MPs being women.”
According to the latest IPU records, the number of female parliamentarians amounts to 10,521 MPs, equivalent to 22, 8% of Members of Parliement in the world.
The study suggests that one of the most important solutions to harassment, sexism and violence against female MPs is to recognize the existence of the problem, naming it and talking about it, for it prevents women from working freely and securely.