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Roundtable issues rallying cry to end political violence against women

By Rana Husseini - Oct 20,2019 - Last updated at Oct 20,2019

AMMAN — Politicians and activists on Sunday said efforts should centre on minimising the effects of political violence against women to ensure stronger female representation in legislative processes. 

They also stressed the need to tackle cyber bullying, which many female politicians encounter during their political careers, and threatens to deter some women from running in elections.

The calls were made during a one-day roundtable discussion titled “Protecting Women from Political Violence in Jordan” that was held at Parliament. The event was organised by the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women in cooperation with the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Chair of the women MPs’ coalition Deputy Wafa Bani Mustafa said her peers are “always expected to prove themselves and exert more effort” to enter political life in Jordan, and often face cyber bullying while in office or while planning to run for a political position.

“We need to hold several workshops for women who plan to run in future elections to prepare them to face and handle the political violence that will likely be exerted against them,” Bani Mustafa said.

President of the Jordanian Women’s Union Amneh Zubi said there is an urgent need to draft a media strategy that tackles cyber bullying against women politicians.

“Social media has become the main enemy of women politicians, and this is surely a matter that we need to address seriously,” Zubi told the gathering.

Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women Salma Nims agreed with Zubi, stating that social media has contributed through “constant attacks on female politicians rather than emphasising their roles as decision-makers”.

Laila Naffa, a member of the Arab Women Organisation in Jordan, stressed the need to ensure that political violence is no longer tolerated by anyone, and to start planning now for the next 10 years to ensure stronger women’s representation in legislative bodies.

Naffa also pointed to the need for increasing women quotas for political posts, for example, in Parliament and municipal councils. 

During the opening of the event, the Lower House’s First Deputy Speaker Nassar Qaisi stressed the importance of adopting steps to empower women in all fields.

“The Parliament is obliged to provide all possible means and strategies to ensure the empowerment of women in all fields, especially in the political arena,” Qaisi stressed. 

EU Ambassador to Jordan Maria Hadjitheodosiou also addressed the gathering, saying that political violence against women has shown a “worrying surge” in societies today.  

“It is very encouraging for me to witness that, in view of Jordan’s new legislative elections, reflection is already taking place on the issue of political violence against women,” Hadjitheodosiou said.  

Jordan can be a leader in the region by addressing this concerning issue, she added.

Meanwhile, MENA Deputy Chief of Party of the NDI Jonas Cekuolis said that the world is accustomed to the concepts of “women’s empowerment” and “gender equality”, and probably, “we would find just very few among political elites who would be surprisingly against these objectives”. 

“But at the same time, surprisingly many women are still told that harassment, threats, psychological abuse, be it in-person or online, and physical and sexual assault are the cost of doing politics. We at the NDI say: ‘No, this is not the cost,’” Cekuolis stressed.

The NDI official pointed to a 2018 report issued by the Inter-Parliamentary Union about sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments. 

“Can you believe that 46 per cent of politically active women received death threats or threats of being raped or beaten… by their own society?” Cekuolis stated.

Two-thirds had been a target of comments related to their physical appearance or based on gender stereotypes, the official said, adding that the problem “needs to be discussed and joint solutions need to be found”.   

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