Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Historically, women have been excluded from political life and decisionmaking processes. Women’s campaigns for participation in the public and political arena date back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and continue today.
At the time of the First World War, few parliamentary democracies recognized women’s right to vote. In 1945, when the United Nations was established, more than half of the 51 nations that ratified the Charter still did not allow women to vote or gave them only restricted voting rights.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to take part in the government of his or her country. One of the first tasks of the Commission on the Status of Women was to write the 1952 Convention on the Political Rights of Women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women builds on previous conventions and its article 7 concerns women’s access to decision-making in political and public life. Article 7 guarantees the right of women to vote in all elections and public referendums and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies, the right to participate in the formulation of government policy and its implementation, to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, and the right to participate in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or associations concerned with the public and political life of the country. Article 8 requires State parties to “take all appropriate measures to ensure to women, on equal terms with men and without any discrimination, the opportunity to represent their Governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations.”

Although women’s right to vote has been secured in nearly every country of the world, in practice, the right to vote can sometimes be meaningless when other conditions make it virtually impossible or very difficult for both men and women to vote, such as the absence of free and fair elections, violations of freedom of expression, or lack of security, which tends to affect women disproportionally. In some countries, women cannot register to vote because they are missing a birth certificate or identity papers that are issued only to men. Other obstacles such as stereotyping and traditional perceptions of men’s and women’s roles in society, as well as lack of access to relevant information and resources, also inhibit women’s possibilities or willingness to exercise their right to vote fully. Traditional working patterns of many political parties and government structures continue to be barriers to women’s participation in public life, and women may be discouraged from seeking political office because of their double burden of work and the high cost of seeking and holding public office, in addition to discriminatory attitudes and practices. Among the countries that have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women few have a legal bar to the eligibility of women, yet women remain seriously underrepresented at all levels of government.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action deals extensively with the issue of women in power and decision-making. Through the Declaration and Platform for Action, States are committed to taking concrete measures to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making, and to increase women’s capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership, in accordance with its detailed recommendations.


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