Most Nations Miss Goal for Women in Leadership ; despite Vow for Change, Parliaments in the World Are Still Largely Male

By Sengupta, Somini | International New York Times, September 2, 2015 | Go to article overview

Most Nations Miss Goal for Women in Leadership ; despite Vow for Change, Parliaments in the World Are Still Largely Male


Sengupta, Somini, International New York Times


Despite a pledge by world leaders to have women make up at least 30 percent of their national legislatures, most parliaments remain largely male.

The corridors of the United Nations hummed as hundreds of men, in polished wingtips and natty ties, arrived here for the annual conclave of lawmakers from around the world.

By now, the other half of humanity was to be better represented in their ranks. Yet despite a promise made by world leaders two decades ago to have women make up at least 30 percent of their national legislatures, most of the world's parliaments remain largely the province of men. The conference at the United Nations on Monday reflected just that.

Among 190 countries, only 44 legislatures have met the 30 percent goal, according to an analysis by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. They include Rwanda (nearly 64 percent of members of its lower house of Parliament are women) and Bolivia (53 percent).

The United States is not among those that met the target. Among members of the House of Representatives, 19 percent are women, and in the Senate, the figure is 20 percent. In India, the world's most populous democracy, women's representation is even lower: 12 percent in its lower house and 12.8 percent in the upper house.

Santi Bai Hanoomanjee, speaker of the national assembly of Mauritius, nudged her male colleagues from around the world to take up the cause in their own countries.

"Be advocates for gender equality," she said in her speech to the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. "Persuade boys and men that our countries and our world can only benefit from equal opportunity and rights. We urge you to lead by example."

Some of the lawmakers who followed her echoed that call: Baroness Frances D'Souza, speaker of the British House of Lords, for instance, spoke of the need for legislatures to institute laws to stanch violence against women. But by and large, the speakers addressed everything other than how their countries planned to address the gender imbalance in their own legislatures.

In a draft declaration that had yet to be completed, the conference of the speakers of parliament agreed to give themselves five more years to reach the 30 percent target.

"We deplore the excruciatingly slow progress in securing a greater presence of women in parliament and commit to redoubling our efforts to reach, as a global average, the internationally agreed target of 30 percent of women members in parliament by 2020," the draft declaration said. …

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