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The Recent Election of Women Leaders

Mexico recently became the first North American nation to elect a female leader, joining a growing global list of countries that have elected or appointed women as heads of state or government including most recently Halla Tomasdottir, the incoming President of Iceland.

The importance of equality in political participation

Balanced political participation and power-sharing between women and men in decision-making is an internationally agreed target set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Having more women in public leadership roles can have a profound impact on creating more peaceful and prosperous societies.

It is therefore deeply concerning that women remain significantly underrepresented across all levels of political decision-making. More needs to be done to increase women’s political representation by understanding and removing obstacles that impede women’s participation in the public sphere and decision-making. 

Increasing women’s political representation

First, we need an end to sex-discriminatory laws in all areas of life that hold women back from engaging in politics in the first place. Achieving legal equality is fundamental to ensuring that women and girls can occupy their rightful civic spaces.

Second, we need an end to all forms of gender-based violence. We know that women in positions of political power are subjected to gender-based violence and sexual harassment, in their offices, on the streets, and in the digital world. It is reported globally that politically active women are disproportionately targeted by online violence.

Attacks in the political sphere against women in positions of power contravene the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, known as the “Convention of Belém do Pará.” The Convention clearly states that every woman shall be able to freely and fully exercise her civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and shall enjoy full protection of those rights enshrined in regional and international human rights instruments. 

Addressing violence against women

As this landmark convention approaches its 30th anniversary, it’s crucial to remember that State Parties recognize violence against women as a significant barrier to exercising these fundamental rights.

In Mexico, the prevalence of violence against women and girls is alarming, with seven out of ten women and girls over the age of 15 experiencing some form of violence, including sexual harassment and abuse, according to UN Women. The election of a woman leader in Mexico, who campaigned on a platform of social justice, sustainability, and equity,  is celebrated with the hope that it signifies a renewed commitment to combating gender-based violence.

We will, as always, remain vigilant to ensure that human rights standards are met and women’s rights are protected, including the fundamental right to live free from violence.