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Adopted unanimously by the 127th IPU Assembly
The 127th IPU Assembly,
Having before it the Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments,
Considering that the document was drawn up following an extensive process of consultation with IPU Members,
Mindful that the document resulting from this process proposes concrete solutions to situations common to all countries while offering a wide range of options responding to individual situations – national and regional – and that it represents a common basis for the advancement of gender-sensitive parliaments in all countries,
Democracy requires constant evaluation and reassessment. In the 20th century, one of the greatest changes to democracy around the world was the inclusion of increasing numbers of women, both as voters and as members of parliament.
In parallel, gender equality and women’s empowerment have become an integral part of the international political and development agenda, recognized as being at the heart of progress towards, and achievement of, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Gender equality means that women and men enjoy full and equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are human rights, requiring political and legal expression. Countries must promote, respect and protect women’s human rights, including gender equality.
Progress towards these goals requires direct action. While specific actions may need to take into account the individual cultural, social and religious context of parliaments around the world, progress essentially requires a widespread change in attitudes and perceptions.
Parliaments are well placed to champion the goal of gender equality. Parliaments aim to reflect society, and so they must reflect the changing dynamics of their electorates.
A gender-sensitive parliament is a parliament that responds to the needs and interests of both men and women in its composition, structures, operations, methods and work. Gender‑sensitive parliaments remove the barriers to women’s full participation and offer a positive example or model to society at large. They ensure that their operations and resources are used effectively towards promoting gender equality.
A gender-sensitive parliament is one in which there are no barriers – substantive, structural or cultural – to women’s full participation and to equality between its men and women members and staff. It is not only a place where women can work, but also one where women want to work and contribute. A gender-sensitive parliament sets a positive example by promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment among society both nationally and internationally.
A gender-sensitive parliament is therefore a modern parliament; one that addresses and reflects the equality demands of a modern society. Ultimately, it is a parliament that is more efficient, effective and legitimate.
This Plan of Action is designed to support parliaments in their efforts to become more gender-sensitive. It presents a broad range of strategies in seven action areas that can be implemented by all parliaments, irrespective of the number of women members.
Parliaments are called upon to take ownership of this Plan of Action and to implement any or all of the Plan’s strategies at the national level by setting concrete objectives, actions and deadlines suited to their national context. They are also called upon to regularly monitor and evaluate their progress towards the goal of gender sensitivity.
A gender-sensitive parliament responds to the needs and interests of both men and women in its structures, operations, methods and work.
A gender-sensitive parliament is one that:
Key action areas of the Plan
Action area 1: Increase the number of women in parliament and achieve equality in participation
Equality of participation can be both a catalyst for implementing gender-sensitive changes and an important outcome of successful gender-sensitive changes.
a. Access to parliament
While the representation of women in parliaments has increased slowly since the mid-twentieth century, it still does not match women’s broader representation in society.
Increasing access to parliament through gender-sensitive changes will help increase the number of women parliamentarians, which can in turn prompt the further implementation of the principles of gender sensitivity.
To redress this imbalance, parliaments should implement one or more of the following measures:
b. Achieving equality in positions and roles
While the number of women in parliament is important, it is equally important to have women in positions of parliamentary leadership.
The principles of gender-sensitive parliaments can be advanced if women occupy leadership positions as parliamentarians and as key members of parliamentary staff, as they are then in a position to influence policy directions, change parliamentary procedure and practices, serve as role models to other women and provide a different perspective in debates.
To improve the leadership status of women and achieve greater gender equality in leadership positions, parliaments should implement one or more of the following measures:
Encourage persons in leadership positions to broaden the criteria used to evaluate the relevance of women’s and men’s experience before entering politics.
Action area 2: Strengthen gender equality legislation and policy
Parliaments can become more gender-sensitive by implementing legislation and policies that support the principles of gender equality. The introduction of gender equality and gender mainstreaming legislation can be an effective catalyst for social and cultural change in attitudes towards gender equality.
Parliaments can also serve as a model for society by championing gender equality through the implementation of gender-sensitive strategic policies, action plans and operational and supporting policies.
a. National legislation
With the goal of promoting change in social and cultural attitudes towards gender equality, parliaments should:
With the aim of guaranteeing a legislative mandate for gender mainstreaming, parliaments should:
b. Parliament’s strategic policies and action plans
In order to serve as leaders and role models for championing gender equality in society, parliaments should:
c. Operational and supporting policies of the parliament
i. Develop media and communications policies
To ensure that the importance of promoting gender equality is well understood and given the utmost visibility, parliament should:
ii. Develop anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies
To ensure that all parliamentarians and parliamentary staff work in an environment free from all forms of discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, parliament should:
Action area 3: Mainstream gender equality throughout all parliamentary work
Gender inequality can be tackled effectively only if policies in all areas are designed in such a way as to address the specific concerns, needs and constraints of both women and men while building on their respective capacities and contributions.
The mainstreaming of gender considerations in a parliament’s work is an effective gender-sensitive change as gender mainstreaming is a process that recognizes the economic, social, political and legal differences that exist between women and men.
a. Committing to gender mainstreaming
Parliaments should demonstrate their commitment to gender mainstreaming by showcasing and creating opportunities to incorporate a gender dimension in all areas of their work. In this respect, they should:
b. Establishing gender mainstreaming structures and mechanisms
Gender mainstreaming involves, in part, the following activities: obtaining gender-disaggregated data and qualitative information on the situation of men and women; conducting a gender analysis which highlights the differences between and among women, men, girls and boys in terms of their relative distribution of resources, opportunities, constraints and power in a given context; and instituting gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, including the establishment of indicators to gauge the extent to which gender equality objectives are met and changes in gender relations are achieved.
Parliaments should adopt one or more of the following mechanisms that are best suited to their own context:
Action area 4: Institute or improve gender-sensitive infrastructure and parliamentary culture
Parliaments are like any other workplace, and as such, should serve as a model for society by upholding the principles of gender sensitivity through the provision of family-friendly policies and infrastructure, and the implementation of policies related to the prevention of discrimination and harassment, and policies on the equitable distribution of parliamentary resources and facilities.
a. Facilitating a work-family balance
To ensure that workplace policies and infrastructure reflect the contemporary work and family realities facing men and women parliamentarians, and in recognition of the fact that women worldwide continue to spend a disproportionate amount of time on care-giving, parliaments should:
b. Fostering a work culture free of discrimination and harassment
To ensure a safe, respectful, non-discriminatory and harassment-free workplace, parliaments should:
c. Providing equitable resources and facilities
To ensure that the parliamentary precinct facilities are suited to the needs of men and women and that resources are equitably distributed, parliaments should:
Action area 5: Ensure that responsibility for gender equality is shared by all parliamentarians – men and women
The realization of a gender-sensitive parliament, based on the ultimate goal of gender equality in all its structures, methods and work, will not take place without the support and involvement of men parliamentarians. Changing social values and heightening gender awareness among men have resulted in stronger partnerships between men and women on gender equality.
Parliaments should adopt strategies that promote such partnerships, including by:
Action area 6: Encourage political parties to be champions of gender equality
Political parties are often the dominant form of political organization and the mechanism through which women and men pursue a legislative agenda with respect to the achievement of gender equality.
Parliaments should encourage political parties to adopt the following gender-sensitive measures:
a. Increase the number of women in their ranks by:
b. Institute gender-sensitive meeting arrangements and work practices by:
c. Develop gender mainstreaming mechanisms by:
d. Equitably allocate parliamentary committee positions among men and women by:
Action area 7: Enhance the gender sensitivity of, and gender equality among, parliamentary staff
Gender-sensitive parliaments are champions of gender equality, not only for their members, but also for the many staff who support them. Parliamentary administrations need to review their workplace culture and infrastructure, and act to ensure that all staff are able to support parliament in achieving its gender equality goals. In this respect, parliaments and their administration should:
Implementation of this Plan of Action
Initiate and implement gender-sensitive reform in parliament
Gender sensitivity is a goal towards which all parliaments must strive. To achieve this goal, parliaments should design a process suited to their national situations that should include the following core elements:
Parliaments interested in evaluating their level of gender sensitivity should:
Irrespective of the method used, it is vital that parliaments reflect on the importance of gender equality and the way they promote this goal not only to their electorates, but also to their members.
Taking stock is a first step, after which parliaments can draw up and implement a roadmap for reform with concrete objectives, actions and deadlines suited to their national context. For this they will need to secure resources.
Parliaments should identify a structure entrusted specifically with monitoring implementation of the Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments and efforts to achieve the goal of gender sensitivity.
Parliaments should give visibility to the reforms undertaken and the results achieved. Parliaments should take action at the international level to promote the principle of gender equality in all international parliamentary institutions and encourage women’s equal participation therein.
Political will and commitment are essential to achieve all of this.
The role of the IPU in supporting gender-sensitive parliaments
For the past 30 years, the IPU has demonstrated its commitment to high-quality and action-oriented research on gender and parliament. The IPU is singularly placed to support its Member Parliaments in their efforts to become gender-sensitive, and through this Plan, undertakes to:
a. Take the lead role in promoting gender-sensitive parliaments by:
b. Build in-house capacity on gender equality and gender mainstreaming by:
c. Place gender equality issues systematically on the agenda of discussions with Member Parliaments, partner organizations and regional parliamentary organizations by:
ANNEX 1: Basic definitions
Gender*: the social attributes associated with being male and female and the relationships between women, men, girls and boys. These attributes and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization. The concept of gender also includes expectations about the characteristics, aptitudes and likely behaviours of both women and men, and when applied to social analysis, reveals socially constructed roles. Sex and gender do not mean the same thing. While sex refers to biological differences, gender refers to social differences, which can be modified since gender identity, roles and relations are determined by society.
Gender mainstreaming*: the process of assessing and taking into account the implications for women and men of any planned action – including legislation, policies or programmes – at all levels and in all spheres. The concept is understood as strategies that put gender issues at the centre of broad policy and programme decisions, institutional structures and resource allocation. Mainstreaming gender equality into the work of parliament should contribute to effective implementation and oversight of policies that address the needs and interests of both men and women.
Gender-sensitive parliament*: a parliament that responds to the needs and interests of both men and women in its structures, operations, methods and work. Gender-sensitive parliaments remove the barriers to women’s full participation and offer a positive example or model to society at large.
Gender-sensitive budgeting*: an approach that aims to mainstream gender in economic policy-making and seeks to transform the entire budgetary process. Gender budgeting refers not only to expenditures earmarked for women, but also to an analysis of the entire budget from a gender perspective, including security, health, education, public works, etc. in order to ensure that the allocations and resulting impacts respond to the needs of both women and men.
Gender-Based Violence**: Acts of physical, mental or social abuse (including sexual violence) that are attempted or threatened, with some type of force (such us violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, deception, cultural expectations, weapons or economic circumstances) and directed against a person because of his or her gender roles and expectations in a society or culture. A person facing gender-based violence has no choice: he/she cannot refuse or pursue other options without serious social, physical, or psychological consequences. Forms include sexual violence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, early marriage or forced marriage, gender discrimination, denial (e.g. of education, food and freedom) and female genital mutilation.
* Definitions are taken from UN/OSAGI, UNDP and UNESCO as quoted in UNDP, Quick Entry Points to Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in Democratic Governance Clusters, New York, 2007 and the IPU, Equality in Politics: A Survey of Women and Men in Parliaments, Geneva, 2008.