PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19
PLAN OF ACTION
A. CONDITIONS FOR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION
BY WOMEN IN POLITICAL LIFE
An analysis of the available information on the various national realities highlights the fact that, in all parts of the world a certain number of conditions favour or on the contrary hinder women's active involvement in political life.
Wider community awareness of issues associated with women's participation in political life is an important aspect of correcting the current imbalance.
To differing degrees, the cultural and religious values of civilization tend to assign - more or less rigidly - specific roles and tasks to men and to women. Thus, they tend to limit women's participation in political life or even to exclude women from politics, and action in this area remains the most delicate and long-term of all.
Nonetheless, it should be possible, without destabilizing cultures or imposing values foreign to the national culture, to enhance or re-enhance women's dignity at the social level and allow the emergence of a more balanced image of the capacity of men and women to participate in the management of both private and public affairs. The following proposals are aimed at that objective.
1. Developing the concepts of parity and partnership
The combination of efforts on the part of all of society's components is indispensable to tackle and resolve the problems facing society. Emphasis should thus be placed on two complementary concepts: the concept of parity which reflects the fact that persons of one or the other sex are different but nonetheless equal; and the concept of partnership, which shows that a creative synergy can be created between men and women so as to tackle the community's problems effectively.
2. Refraining from presenting activities outside and inside the home as conflicting
It is proposed to refrain from presenting the traditional roles and tasks assumed by women at home and her activities outside the home, whether social, professional, political, or other, as conflicting activities.
In this connection, it can be important to recognize and enhance the historical role played by women in society: For example, women's participation in national liberation struggles, in rebuilding the nation after a war, their past and present role in development.
Governments should organize public information campaigns for this purpose. To respect the principle of equality, they should also ensure that the portrait of women given in textbooks corresponds to historical fact and is presented with all their potential and achievements. The media could also do much in that respect by disseminating information based on reliable and verified documentation.
Men should support women's participation in social activities and share with them obligations and responsibilities, as well as authority, with regard to housework and the rearing and education of children. This is particularly so when women combine domestic tasks with professional and/or political activities.
It is equally important to recognize and enhance the role and activities of women inside the home. Governments, Parliaments and non-governmental organizations could organize campaigns focusing on the importance of this role and these activities for society.
This recognition could even extend to the institution of a method which would place an economic value on work at home and even a system to remunerate such work. The economic value of women's work at home could also be considered as part of the gross national product.
Social security protection should be provided for either men or women, including for work at home.
3. Changing the images and models
The images and models of men and women are transmitted through education in the family, formal education, the media and by advertising messages. Action needs to be taken at all these different levels in order to eliminate any suggestion that one sex is superior to the other and, on the contrary, to promote the image of equality and complementarity between the sexes. It is important that the difference should be seen as an advantage and not a limitation.
Regarding participation in politics, some women such as women parliamentarians and those exercising responsibilities in the government - whether at the local, provincial or national levels - can act positively as models. They can show that, without abandoning their traditional roles, women can participate responsibly in political activities and have no need to adopt male behaviour patterns to do so.
4. Harmonizing customary and positive law
In all countries where positive law establishes equality between the sexes while customary law tends to disadvantage women, customary law should be adjusted so as to eliminate any kind of discrimination.
It is also important for men and women to receive sufficient information on their rights and responsibilities. Governments could organize public information campaigns for this purpose, for example, through the media.
In a rapidly changing and unstable world, education and training should be broad-based and launched as a system of lifelong learning so as to strike a new balance between practical and academic skills. Furthermore, education should be linked with sustainable development now requiring, among other things, fresh impetus to close the gap between male and female involvement.
1. Equality of access to schooling for boys and girls
In all countries where this is not yet the case, it is recommended that measures be taken to facilitate access to schooling for girls, under legal and practical conditions identical to those for boys.
In countries where the rate of school attendance for girls is lower than that for boys, the government as well as community and grass-root organizations could organize campaigns to overcome prejudices and to encourage families to send their girls to school in the same way as boys. In some cases, special provisions such as the awarding of grants or special allowances for girls' schooling, or the supply of educational material free of charge, could be adopted to overcome the material obstacles.
2. Establishment of an identical duration of schooling for boys and girls
Boys and girls should be subject to the same minimum obligatory period of school attendance.
3 Adult literacy programmes
Governments should draw up and implement adult literacy programmes since this would facilitate women's participation in political life.
4. Educational content
It is recommended that all education material should be scrutinized so as to eliminate any messages which give or suggest an image of men's superiority over women; educational material should be the same for boys and girls.
In teacher training, special attention should be paid to promoting the principle of equality between men and women and the concepts of parity and partnership.
It is recommended that, at appropriate levels of education, the rights of the person be established as a discipline, which would greatly contribute to the further emancipation of women in all respects.
Every year, women die from after-effects linked to pregnancy, delivery or abortion, and nearly 99 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries. This state of affairs not only has an adverse effect on women's availability for participation in political life but also represents a major handicap diverting them from any activity in civilian life.
It is recommended that governments create and reinforce health systems so that such systems may be capable of preventing maternal and child mortality, thus ensuring that mothers do not have this major concern and so can envisage competing in politics.
National Parliaments should promote family planning so as to allow women to organize their domestic lives accordingly, as well as their professional and political careers.
In the same spirit, national legislation must guarantee the moral and physical integrity of women through stringent legislation and with harsh penalties for conjugal violence and through total prohibition of practices which physically mutilate women.
Surveys carried out in this field show that in every country where an increase in the number of women in paid employment has been noted, such an increase has led to a change in the economic and social structure. Equal pay for equal work and, for women, direct and independent access to credit are powerful tools for obtaining recognition of the equality of sexes and women's economic independence. In general, women who achieve independent economic and social power show greater interest and become more active in politics.
Accordingly, it is recommended that measures be taken to promote the access of women to professional training and employment on equal conditions with men.
It is further recommended that measures be taken:
Reference to the relevant international standards will be found attached.
All States which have not done so should ratify without delay the Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1952) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), together with, where applicable, regional instruments concerning the status of women.
All States should ensure that their national legislation complies with the norms featuring in those instruments. They should further periodically verify the soundness of any reservation expressed at the time of ratification and envisage its prompt lifting.
In all these respects, parliamentarians are strongly recommended to use their right of initiative.
Women's rights come under the category of rights of the person and should be specifically recognized as such in the national Constitution or in any other basic text of constitutional rank.
In particular, the principle of equality between men and women should be explicitly spelled out in the national Constitution or in any other basic text of constitutional rank.
It is recommended that, in all countries where this is not yet the case, measures be taken to revise these texts in order to include the appropriate provisions. Legislators can play a decisive role in this regard by using their parliamentary right of initiative.
Since the principle of equality applies to all spheres of activity, it is recommended that a special law define the various practical applications, as is already the case in a number of countries. It is possible to incorporate into this law references to pre-existing laws dealing with the principle of equality in such areas as equal pay.
It is recommended that this law be drafted in consultation with women's organizations and other associations as well as other organizations which seek to ensure that the principles of equality and justice prevail and that all citizens participate fully in political, economic, cultural and social life.
It is recommended that a mechanism to ensure respect for the principle of equality be created by law.
In this context, it is suggested that an ombudsman (man or woman)4 may be appointed with responsibility for acting on equality complaints, as is already the case in a number of countries. The ombudsman should be given the legal means and the human and material resources necessary to fulfil his or her responsibilities.
Without denying the difference between men and women, the language used in legislation should aim to put men and women on an equal footing, eschewing any discrimination based on the idea of male superiority over the female sex. It is accordingly recommended that basic texts such as the Constitution should be reviewed in order to eliminate any terms or wording which tend to suggest sexual stereotypes. In this connection, legislators can play a decisive role by using their right of parliamentary initiative. In some languages it is necessary to have laws drafted using both the masculine and feminine forms.
Women's participation in politics and in the exercise of political responsibilities should be encouraged and facilitated by action to promote awareness, comprising civic and political education, which helps women to know their rights and to become conscious of their capacity to have a direct hand in political life. The Government, Parliament, political parties and organizations, trade unions, non-governmental organizations and the media can all contribute to this process.
However specific they may be, women's issues are questions that concern society as a whole. All governments should thus take the necessary steps to ensure that the interests and specific problems of women are explicitly taken into account and dealt with, in a permanent and thorough manner and in all areas pertaining to governmental jurisdiction.
It is absolutely essential that the necessary material and human resources are earmarked for this purpose.
Part of these resources should be devoted to promoting women's participation in civic life as an integral part of the process of strengthening democracy and the Ministry of Education should specially see to it that proper civic, political and legal education is dispensed from early childhood.
Government action in this respect could include educating women to participate in and manage public affairs (see also the section on non-governmental organizations below).
One of the priorities of the Government should be to inform the public of all the legal provisions which establish the principle of equality between men and women and to ensure that these are respected. It should also regularly disseminate figures and other data on women in public life and in politics.
The governmental policy promoting participation in civic life should be designed and implemented in close consultation with the political parties and professional as well as social community based organizations. The Government should further rely on the media to inform the public of its objectives, its activities and its achievements.
The Government should offer to administrative personnel (men and women) a different type of training so as to promote a positive change in the image that governmental institutions have of equality between men and women.
2. Political parties and organizations and trade unions
Political parties and organizations should carry out public information campaigns on the need for and importance of women's participation in political life as an integral part of the process of strengthening democracy. In this connection, wherever women's branches exist (see section C.II.4, page 13), they could play an effective role.
By analysing election results, the parties could assess the advantage of choosing women candidates as well as men candidates who are active in promoting women's participation.
Women should be encouraged to become involved in trade unions as these organizations are powerful informal levers for the control of political power.
3. Non-governmental organizations
Non-governmental organizations should also carry out public information campaigns on the need for and importance of women's participation in political life as an integral part of the process of strengthening democracy.
They should undertake campaigns to encourage the population, especially women, to vote. In doing so, they could draw special attention to those candidates (female or male) who are active in promoting women's participation.
Like the government body mentioned above and political parties, they could organize training courses for women in public speaking, communication and elocution, negotiating techniques and strategy, leadership, techniques of moderating groups, management of public affairs, contacts with the press, etc.
Women should be encouraged to set up organizations to defend their status or multisectoral associations where they could discover the force of feminine solidarity
The contribution which the media can make towards the promotion of awareness is undoubtedly crucial. They can help to instil among the public the idea that women's participation in political life is an essential part of democracy. They can also take care to avoid giving negative or minimizing images of women and their determination and capacity to participate in politics, stressing the importance of women's role in economic and social life and in the development process in general. Any stereotyped presentation of the image of women by any media should be prohibited by law.
The media can play an important role in such endeavours as removing discrimination and prejudice against women and encouraging them to improve their personal qualities and actively participate in management and decision-making. They should widely publicize the contributions that women have made to the development process of human civilizations and history, introduce to the public positive images of women's characters, encourage women to build confidence, raise women's participation awareness and deplore discrimination and any other conduct detrimental to women's interests.
1. Basic texts
It is proposed that the basic texts, for example, those which define the party's basic policy, its hierarchy and the rules of procedure, should be reviewed in order to eliminate any provision which explicitly condones or could justify discrimination against women.
2. Political parties' programmes
It is suggested that, when drawing up their programmes, parties should pay special attention to the principle of equality between men and women. The programmes should focus on the advantages of active partnership between men and women based on recognition of their difference and complementarity.
In this spirit, it is also recommended that parties should aim to eliminate from their programmes any terms or wording which could directly or indirectly imply the notion of superiority of men over women.
3. Decision-making bodies
It is proposed that measures be taken to give equally qualified men and women equal opportunities to belong to decision-making bodies at all levels in the party's structure: local, provincial and national.
On a strictly interim basis, these measures may include affirmative action measures. Wherever the measure chosen is a quota system, it is proposed that the quota should not target women but that, in a spirit of equity, it may be established that neither sex may occupy a proportion of seats inferior to a given percentage.
4. Women's branches in the parties
Where they exist, women's branches in the parties should have the following as their objectives and functions inter alia:
(i) To constitute a forum for discussing the special problems encountered by women in carrying out their party activities;
(ii) To organize grassroots activities to make women - especially those with a low level of education - aware of their civil and political rights and of the importance and effect of their active participation in political life;
(iii) To prepare women - including those with scant education - to take part in elections by informing them of the issues and explaining how the elections are held in practice;
(iv) To train women to become candidates in local, provincial and national elections; this training could include courses on various aspects of electoral campaigns and preparation for contacts with the media;
(v) To establish networks for support for women candidates at elections and for women elected.
5. Measures to ensure participation in the activities of political parties
It is suggested that, at all levels of their structure (local, provincial and national), political parties should hold a democratic debate on the expediency of adopting special arrangements to facilitate women's participation in meetings and other party activities, as well as to facilitate men's participation in activities in the domestic sphere.
The following are some of the arrangements which could be envisaged and which have already been implemented by some parties:
(i) Arranging times of meetings so that they do not coincide with the time when priority is usually given to children and the family;
(ii) Setting up day-care centres or kindergartens for children, available free of charge;
(iii) Fixing and respecting the time for beginning and ending a meeting, which would be stated in advance in the convocation.
6. Creation of an equality committee within parties
It is suggested that parties set up a committee to ensure respect for the principle of equality, including within the party itself. Such a committee must be composed of men and women and not just seen as a women's branch of the party.
1. Recognition of women's right to vote and be elected
The rare countries where women do not yet have the right to vote and be elected should take measures to rectify the situation as rapidly as possible.
It is recommended that the right to vote and the right to be elected should be given to women at the same time.
It is also recommended that, respecting the principle of equality between men and women, the right of women to vote and be elected should not be subject to any restrictions or conditions other than those which may also apply to men.
In some countries, the level of education is one of the criteria for inclusion on the electoral roll. In countries where a sizable proportion of the population is illiterate, especially women, it might be advisable to remove this condition while at the same time making an effort to educate the population on the exercise of electoral rights (see section C I and III 2).
2. Exercise of the right to vote
(i) Registration on the electoral roll
Information campaigns should be undertaken by the government, political parties and non-governmental organizations to encourage voters to register on the electoral roll. These campaigns should focus on women because, more frequently than men, they do not know that voting requires prior registration on the electoral roll or, due to lack of information, they are reluctant to take this step.
Special action should be undertaken in rural or deprived areas, by the government, political parties and non-governmental organizations. The campaigns should be given widespread publicity by the media.
A clear presentation of the election issues can act as a determinant in deciding voters to register on the electoral roll and to vote.
(ii) Education in order to progress from a passive to an enlightened vote
Campaigns should also be undertaken by the government, political parties and non-governmental organizations to make voters aware of the importance of voting and to enable them to carry out their electoral responsibilities in a conscious rather than passive manner. These campaigns should focus on women.
(iii) Voting by proxy
Voting by proxy is not to be encouraged. Where the electoral law allows for voting by proxy, it is recommended that it should include provisions which ensure that the voter's choice is not ignored through the practice of the proxy. Accordingly, it is recommended that the electoral law should:
(i) Specifically provide that the voter must be physically unable to vote; and
(ii) Specify precisely how in practice voting by proxy functions so that, in particular, the elector's intention to vote by proxy is clearly established. For example: obligation for the holder of the proxy to present a legal authorization.
3. Effects of the method of voting and of the distribution of seats in Parliament
According to studies on the subject carried out by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, there is no firm and final indication that one particular electoral system is more favourable to women than another. According to many sources, the electoral system5 or method of voting significantly determines the share of women elected to Parliament. Although there is no unanimity on this, election results tend to show that in the proportional electoral system, the share of women elected is indeed higher than with the majority system. Whatever system is used, it is recommended that measures be taken to ensure that an equitable number of women are elected to Parliament.
(i) Balance between candidatures from men and women
Whether the system used is the single-member system or that of a list, parties should ensure that there is the greatest possible balance between the number of men and women candidates, on criteria of competence.
(ii) Uninominal voting and voting for a list
When voting is for a list, it is important to ensure that - contrary to a practice that is far too widespread - women are well situated on the list so that they may have a chance of being elected. This is particularly important if the voting method is that of a closed party list, since the voter has then no possibility of indicating his or her preference among the candidates appearing on the list.
The position on the list remains an important criterion even in the case of preferential voting, where the voter can decide to place the candidates in a different order to that attributed by the party, and in voting where the voters can "split" their vote among candidates appearing on competing lists so as to make up their own list. Experience tends to prove that in this electoral system the position on the list often influences the voter's choice and those higher up on the list have a greater chance of being elected.
Provisions should be introduced so as enable the community to assess the merits of candidates and convey their views to the parties prior to the elections.
(iii) Putting forward candidatures
Since experience shows that women's candidatures meet with increasing success among voters, it would appear to be in the interests of parties to include women among their candidates at elections. In order to assess better the expediency of women's candidatures, the parties should be asked to analyse election results in the light of this criterion.
When putting forward candidates, it is recommended that parties choose the constituencies carefully to ensure that they are not disadvantageous to women. This recommendation is not only addressed to parties with a wide electoral base but also to minority parties.
The importance of women candidates in local and municipal elections should be stressed as this is a very effective way for women to enter and acquire experience in political life.
(iv) Support for candidates
Parties and non-governmental organizations, especially women's organizations, should ensure that candidates for election are given the support indispensable for the success of their campaign.
In the case of parties, equal support - including financial support - should be given to men and women candidates for election. Women's branches of the parties can further provide women with a very effective network of support (see section C II.4).
4. Adoption of measures for affirmative action
On a strictly interim basis, affirmative action measures may be taken. Wherever the measure chosen is a quota system, it is proposed that the quota should not target women but that, in a spirit of equity, it may be established that neither sex may occupy a proportion of seats inferior to a given percentage.
1. In Government - at the local, provincial and national levels
The participation of a proportion of women in government should be established as one of the rules of democracy. All governments should thus include a proportion of women.
Men and women alike are fitted to hold government office in any sector whatever. Accordingly, posts allocated to women should not be confined to particular sectors but should be in any area (social affairs, foreign affairs, finance, interior, defence, etc.).
2. In Parliament - at the local, provincial and national levels
(i) Legislative action
The creation of a parliamentary committee whose specific terms of reference would be to deal with issues relating to the status of women can make an important contribution towards ensuring that special and permanent attention is paid to implementation of the principle of equality in all national legislation.
In conformity with the principle of equality and based on the concept of partnership, such a committee should always be composed of both men and women.
(ii) Measures to ensure equitable distribution of responsibilities in Parliament
The governing body of the Parliament and parliamentary groups should be made aware of the need to ensure an equitable proportional distribution of posts in Parliament between men and women.
(iii) Trans-party women's groups
As a transitional measure until such time as a better balance between men and women in parliament is reached, the creation of an informal trans-party group of women parliamentarians can help to ensure that women legislators' views are taken into account when defining priorities, drafting legislation and allocating posts to be filled.
The United Nations proclaimed 8 March International Women's Day and this should be marked by special events: special ceremony, national campaign, adoption of a text by the Parliament, etc. It is important for such events to be reported by the media in order to bring the event to the public's attention.
IN THE INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION'S ACTIVITIES
The following proposals are only conceivable in relation to the situation and corresponding measures within each National Group6.
National Groups must take special care to respect the provisions of Article 11.1 of the IPU Statutes, which states that "The Conference shall be composed of members of Parliament designated as delegates by their National Groups, including if possible at least one woman if the Group has women members". Non-observance of this rule should be the exception and solely as the result of special circumstances such as the unavailability of women parliamentarians.
This statutory provision, which is for statutory meetings, must be taken into account when deciding upon delegations for non-statutory inter-parliamentary meetings, whether global or regional, and even if the delegation to those meetings is usually composed of fewer members than for a statutory conference7.
The provisions recently adopted in order to achieve a balance between the number of men and women in the Executive Committee (Article 23.2 of the Statutes8) and in the drafting committees of the Conference's Committees (Article 15 of the Rules of the Committees9) should be strictly respected.
They may be strengthened by other provisions concerning the representation of National Groups in the Inter-Parliamentary Council and ad hoc or specialized bodies, for example:
1. Inter-Parliamentary Council
There are still very few women among the members of the Inter-Parliamentary Council. The National Groups should therefore be encouraged to appoint women as Council members.
As a transitional measure and until there is a better sharing of seats between men and women in the Council, each regional grouping represented in the Parity Working Group that drafted the present Plan of Action could be asked to nominate two women to represent it on the Inter-Parliamentary Council in addition to the two members representing each National Group. These twelve regional representatives could take part with full rights in the discussions and voting in the Council.
To that end, the Inter-Parliamentary Council decides that the procedure for the amendment of the IPU Statutes and Rules, as defined in Article 27 of the Statutes, be initiated10.
2. Special committees, working groups and other non-statutory bodies
Special care must be taken to ensure that every special committee, working group or other non-statutory body includes at least one woman. A provision to this effect could be included in the Rules11.
Items concerning women will be placed more often on the agenda of statutory conferences.
Whenever a question specifically related to the rights of women is included in the agenda of an Inter-Parliamentary Conference, the Inter-Parliamentary Council may decide to include a number of competent international non-governmental organizations in the list of observers for the session in question.
The studies carried out to date by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the basis of questionnaires sent to all National Parliaments have provided a valuable means of assessing the situation. Surveys on the distribution of seats between men and women in National Parliaments and on the various aspects of women's participation in political life will continue to be carried out every four years on the basis of data transmitted by the existing national Parliaments, whether or not represented by a National Group within the Union, in reply to a questionnaire12.
The agenda of each of the Inter-Parliamentary Council's biannual sessions will in future include an oral report on the work, results and recommendations of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians13.
Bearing in mind the success and long-term effects of the symposium held in 1989, the Inter-Parliamentary Council shall include in the Union's programme and budget a symposium-type meeting on "Towards partnership between men and women in politics", to be held preferably before the IVth World Women's Conference which will take place in Beijing from 4 to 15 September 199514.
The Inter-Parliamentary Council decides that this world symposium, which should be organized in co-operation with the United Nations, shall comprise regional workshops to allow an in-depth exchange of views among men and women from countries with similar situations and the search for solutions to the specific problems identified.
The Union's Statutes and Rules will need to be reviewed to ensure that the vocabulary and the terms used can in no way be construed as suggesting the superiority of one sex over another. The IPU Secretary General, in consultation with the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, should be asked to make proposals for any necessary changes15.
The same criterion shall be applied to all the Inter-Parliamentary Union's documents.
The IPU should encourage other international parliamentary bodies to use the guidelines of the present Plan of Action in their activities. This will help establish an international machinery for gender equality seeking to collect and disseminate information and research, create model policies and support the cross-national networking of the national equality policy machinery.
OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN OF ACTION
The implementation of this Plan of Action should be evaluated periodically. Such evaluations should be carried at five-yearly intervals in the light of national reports16.
Within the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the responsibility for examining these reports will be entrusted to a Parity Working Group set up specifically to this end. The views and recommendations formulated by this Parity Working Group will be examined by the Inter-Parliamentary Council and transmitted for action to the Parliaments of the countries concerned.