WOMEN

Female Politicians Consistently Face Violence, Rape Threats

A depressing new survey says women leaders everywhere face it.

28/10/2016 6:01 AM AEDT | Updated 28/10/2016 6:01 AM AEDT
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Hillary Clinton isn’t the only female politician who has to deal with nonstop sexual harassment. A bleak new survey of 55 female parliamentarians ― from 39 different countries ― found that more than 80 percent had been subject to psychological violence while serving their term, including threats of rape, beatings or abduction.

The report, conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, was small, but included women from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas and Arab countries. 

Overall, more than one-fifth of the women had been the victim of at least one act of physical violence during their term, much of which took place in or around political meetings. One woman said she’d been slapped by a local governor and hit in the eye by a parliament member from her own party. 

In addition, more than 65 percent had been subject to humiliating sexual or sexist remarks. 

One female politician in sub-saharan Africa reported that she’d been told: “A chest like that must produce a lot of milk.” 

Another, in Europe, had been told: “You would be even better in a porn movie.” 

Notably, many of those remarks were made in parliament by male colleagues, but social media was also a huge factor. More than 41 percent of the women said they’d had deeply humiliating, sexually-charged images of themselves spread online.

“The study has revealed a troubling prevalence of gender-based violence against women parliamentarians throughout the world,” the report’s authors write. “This includes not only psychological violence, deplorable wherever it occurs, but also other forms of violence ― sexual, physical, economic.”

I am constantly asked ― even by male colleagues in my own party ― if what I want to say is very important, if I could refrain from taking the floor or if I could word things differently. -A female parliamentarian

On top of such obvious, undeniable forms of violence and harassment, the researchers also found widespread examples of what the report’s authors called more “latent sexism.” Female politicians said they were regularly talked down to or ignored.

“No one has really tried to prevent me from speaking,” one European parliament member said, “but I am constantly asked ― even by male colleagues in my own party ― if what I want to say is very important, if I could refrain from taking the floor or if I could word things differently.”

The report’s authors did not attempt to tackle what the full implications of such constant violence and harassment are, although the women did tell them it was a constant source of stress and made some of them reconsider whether it was worth it to run for office again. (Perhaps this could be a factor behind the female “ambition gap” in politics we so often hear about?)

But 80 percent of the women who’d been subject to this kind of violence said it only strengthened their determination to do their jobs, proving, yet again, that everything may be terrible, but females are strong as hell. 

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