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Taiwan’s #MeToo, historic Sierra Leone polls, and a first in Italy: Everything you need to know about women in politics from June
#WomenLead (Issue 140): Your monthly round-up on women in politics
Hello, and welcome to the June 2023 edition of #WomenLead!
Only 22.1 percent of the global gender gap on political empowerment has been closed as of 2023, hardly an improvement from 22 percent in 2022, data from the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap report released earlier this month shows. Does that count as progress? We don’t know! We do know that political empowerment remains the most skewed among the four dimensions measured by the report. Who’s surprised?
On that not-very-exciting note, let’s get started with your monthly round-up on all things #WomenInPolitics!
This month we bring you election updates from Guatemala, Kuwait, Mexico, Sierra Leone and Thailand, news about women’s experience in office from Australia, Italy, Taiwan and the European Parliament, and reading recommendations from so many other parts of the world.
In case you missed last month’s edition, you can read it here.
Tracking women among candidates and winners
🇬🇹 Guatemala: The Central American nation goes to polls today to elect a new President, Vice President, members of its Congress and local representatives. The presidential race - which has come under international scrutiny - is chock-a-block with more than twenty candidates, with polls suggesting Sandra Torres, a former first lady, to be leading. This year’s election might be a milestone as several indigenous women are in the running, trying to break into the country’s politics, says this report in Open Democracy.
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone: Also going to polls today is Sierra Leone to elect its next President and members of Parliament. This is a historic election in the country - it is the first instance of an election after the country brought in a law that mandated political parties to ensure 30 percent of their candidates are women. On that note, read this report from Foreign Policy on whether gender quotas in politics actually work.
🇰🇼 Kuwait: Earlier this month, Kuwait held a snap election - the third Parliamentary polls since 2020 - that brought the opposition to power. How many women were elected? Just one, among fifty members! But there is little to be surprised here. In December 2020, the country had elected a manel to Parliament. In the subsequent election held in 2022, two women made it to the house, and this year, that’s down to one.
🇹🇭 Thailand: 19.2 percent - that’s the share of women who were elected to Thailand’s Parliament last month, data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union shows. This was up from the previous election when the share of women among those who were elected was 15.8 percent. Read more about some of the women who have made it to Parliament here.
🇲🇽 Mexico: Claudia Sheinbaum, mayor of Mexico City, stepped down from her role earlier this month. She has announced that she will contest the country’s Presidential polls next year.
Spotlighting women’s experiences in political office
Australian politics is once again in the spotlight with allegations of sexual assault and harassment, this time by a sitting senator.
During a session of the Senate, Senator Lidia Thorpe objected when a male Senator, David Van, was speaking about rape allegations involving another man. Thorpe said that she was “feeling really uncomfortable when a perpetrator is speaking”. When asked to retract her statement, she refused.
She withdrew the allegations later in the day, but later, revealed, without naming anyone, that she had been sexually harassed by four different parliamentarians - two MPs and two senators. The harassment included inappropriate remarks, touching her without consent, and making unwelcome advances. However, instead of finding support, Thorpe says she was demonised. Later, more allegations of sexual misconduct were made against Van and he had to resign from his party.
In Taiwan, the ruling party and the media are under the scanner as they grapple with scores of #MeToo allegations. The movement comes in the wake of a popular Netflix show, “Wave Makers” which has triggered a conversation on sexual harassment in the country.
On May 31, a former staff member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took to Facebook to share that she had been sexually harassed by a contractor during her time at the party. She referred to the show in her post. Since then, several members of the party have been accused of sexual harassment, and many have stepped down from their posts ever since. Members of the main opposition party, Kuomintang (KMT), have also been accused. More than 90 people had made allegations in the first two weeks after the May 31 post, the BBC reported.
Gilda Sportiello, an MP from Italy, became the first person to breastfeed her baby during a session of the country’s Parliament, the Associated Press reported. Sportiello had earlier fought for a rule so that Parliamentarians who were new mothers did not have to skip work if they were breastfeeding their baby.
“From today on, if the highest Italian institutions allow workers to nurse at their workplace, then no woman, in any profession, can be denied this right,” Sportiello said.
“No mamma must be forced to interrupt nursing to return to work, no women should be denied this possibility,” she added.
In the meantime, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are pushing for a reform that will pave way for parental leave for legislators. Currently, MEPs cannot vote if they are on leave to care for children. They are pushing for official leave that will allow remote voting when a new parent is not able to attend a session in person.
“If you’re forced to choose between your votes and your child that’s a really bad signal, especially for young women,” Lara Wolters, a Dutch MEP who is expecting her second child, told POLITICO.
A note of gratitude for those tracking gender gaps in politics
Regular readers of #WomenLead would have chanced upon this name on multiple occasions in the pages of this newsletter. Jennifer Piscopo is an Associate Professor (Department of Politics) at Occidental College in the USA and an Honorary Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
She specializes in women’s representation in politics, especially on gender quotas in politics. Professor Piscopo actively writes on these issues beyond the closed walls of academic journals - she frequently writes for media outlets, academic blogs and international/policy organizations. Following her on Twitter is a great way to learn about emerging research and tracking what’s happening in politics globally, but doubly so when it comes to the Latin American region.
The more one learns, there’s only more to learn
“Parliaments play a crucial role in women’s equal right to participate”: United Nations Human Rights
“How protest movements use feminine images and social media to fight sexist ideologies of authoritarian regimes”: The Conversation
“What research tells us we can do to help more women get elected outside of election years”: LSE Blogs
“In the running: Encouraging women to get into politics”: Irish Examiner
“Melinda French Gates: Why I’m focusing on getting more women in public office”: Time
That’s a wrap for June! Liked this edition? Then press the ❤️ button and show us some love! And please, please do share this with a friend or on your social media accounts. There’s frankly nothing quite like reader love and endorsement, so please keep it coming! Thank you!
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