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Strong political will needed to end gender inequality

DHAKA, April 1, 2017 (BSS) - Women parliamentarians at a forum today voiced to end gender inequalities by ensuring participation of women in all spheres of society including politics, governance and financial sectors.

Gender equality in politics is crucial to democracy and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they told the forum of women parliamentarians of the 136th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) here.

Lawmakers of different countries addressed the forum with former Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni in the chair.

Programme Officer of Gender Partnership Programme of IPU Zeina Hilal made a presentation on different aspects of women parliamentarians at the forum.

The global average of the women in national parliament is 23.3 percent, up from 22.6 percent a year ago, Zeina Hilal said, adding at this pace it would take another 50 years to reach gender parity in parliament.

A study by the IPU done in October 2016 reveals that sexism, harassment and violence against women MPs are global problems that impede gender equality and undermine the foundations of democracy, she added.

The study reports that 81.8 per cent of survey participants have experienced some form of psychological violence. Among them, some 44 per cent said they had received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction during their parliamentary terms, including threats to kidnap or kill their children.

IPU's study is based-on in-depth interviews with 55 women MPs from 39 countries covering five regions of the world. It shows troubling level of psychological, sexual and physical violence.

'It is not acceptable and it should be stopped' said Zeina Helal, who also briefed newsmen after the session.

The paper shows that there are no women parliamentarians at five parliaments, while Rwanda Lower house, Bolivia lower house and Belgium upper house has more than 50 per cent women parliamentarians, said a participant of the debate.

Referring to top executive posts including Prime Minister, Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad and Opposition leader, Waseqa Ayesha Khan, a member of Bangladesh Parliament, said Bangladesh has made a good progress in participation of women in politics.

"At present, 20.3 percent women are in the current parliament, which indicates an active involvement in politics," she added.

Waseqa said alongside significant representation of women at the Bangladesh Parliament, women representation also increased at different local government bodies.

The present government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made mandatory recruitment of 30 percent women in different public services, she added.

Dola Sen, an Indian lawmaker, said although active participation of women is seen in political arena of India, women participation in Indian politics is still below compared to their male counterparts.

She said patriarchal mindset, socio-cultural barrier are responsible for less participation women in politics.

As women make up half of total population, Dola Sen said women participation must be equal with male peers to promote women empowerment campaign.

The 136th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly that kicked off in the city today, 'would create a unique opportunity for Bangladesh to showcase the country's ongoing economic progress and its potentialities before the international communities'.

"The 136th IPU assembly would help showcasing the country's ongoing economic progress and removing the perception of international community following remarks of former US Secretary of State Henry Alfred Kissinger's about Bangladesh," said IPU President Saber Hossain Chowdhury at a press briefing on Friday.

Bangladesh is hosting the assembly of IPU, the century-old organisation of world's legislators, for the first time after joining the forum in 1972.

Giving details, Saber Chowdhury said a total of 1,348 delegates including 53 speakers, deputy speakers and 209 women parliamentarians of 131 countries are joining the assembly.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)