Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Rebecca Kadaga has urged fellow legislators to help end violence targeted at women during elections.
She said there are many incidents of women being victims of election related violence compared to men, which indicates that women are often targeted not necessarily because of their political actions or affiliations, but simply because they are women.
Kadaga, who is also Uganda’s Speaker, was addressing close to 150 women across the Commonwealth countries during a two-day Triennial Conference in London, United Kingdom last week under the theme “Political Violence Against Women’’.
The Triennial Commonwealth Women Conference is part of the 62nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference taking place from 11th to 18th December 2016.
Kadaga informed the meeting that for every public violent incident known and recorded, there are more incidents happening behind closed doors and in private, with scanty documentation and, worse, without adequate services to respond to survivors’ needs and due process for perpetrators.
“These private and public incidents, no doubt discourage and prevent women from participating in the electoral process,” she said.
Kadaga appealed to electoral commissions, as national institutions, to ensure that electoral procedures safeguard women’s rights to inclusive electoral processes. She urged lawmakers to consider making laws to address harassment of women politicians and establish mechanisms to end impunity of such crimes.
Shirley Osborne from the Caribbean region observed that civil society organisations were doing commendable work to address the problem but that there was need for advocacy and a platform to address the issue.
While women parliamentarians from the Pacific region were in agreement that participation in elections was an important political process, they noted that the direct physical violence meted on women at home and in public greatly affected women’s ability to participate in the electoral processes.
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Akbar Khan, informed women Commonwealth Parliamentarians that he was committed to seeing that the CPA embodies diversity but also shares values of democracy, rule of law and human rights.
The 62nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference brought together Speakers and Members of Parliament representing the nine regions of the CPA, namely, Africa, Asia, Australia, British Islands and Mediterranean, Canada, Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic; India, Pacific and South East Asia.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association provides a unique platform for inter-parliamentary dialogue to take place and given its diverse nature of membership, the Association is in a unique position to offer a comprehensive perspective on how to strengthen parliamentary democracy among member states.