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Violence and Harassment Against Female Politicians - 2020

Resolution Number: 200.50.13
Club: Trenton & District
Year: 2020
Status: Open

BACKGROUND - On September 9, 2019, the news reported the then Minister of Children, Community and Social Services’ constituency office received over 100 deeply personal, vulgar, and vicious emails, phone calls, and voicemails between February 8, 2019 and March 1, 2019 (Helmer, 2019). This was not an isolated incident of sexism and abuse directed towards female politicians at various levels of government (Connolly, 2019). This violence is the result of deep-rooted prejudice and structural inequality. Blatant manifestation of this includes unconscious bias, symbolic oppression, routine sexism, discrimination, harassment, and violence, which leads women’s subordinate position in society (Nandhego, Danusa, Al-Rasheed, Abdel Hay, Abellan, Mena, et al, 2019).

Women who are political leaders challenge traditional and stereotypical female characteristics, which results in incivility to enforce gender roles. Women in high-ranking positions are more likely to be targets of incivility then women in lower ranking positions. Politicians with higher visibility were more likely to be targeted (Rheault, Rayment, and Musulan, 2019). Violence against female politicians is gendered-based and can be physical, sexual, or psychological such as sexist remarks, sexual harassment, rape, and possibly murder. This is a form of human rights violations (UN Women 2018).

The 2016 and 2018 Inter-Parliamentary Union studies determined that sexism, harassment, and violence towards female politicians is widespread throughout the world. Of the female politicians who participated in the studies, 82 per cent “had experienced psychological violence (sexual and sexist remarks, intimidation and threats, pictures published with humiliating or sexual connotations, etc.)…25 per cent had suffered physical violence, 20 per cent had been sexually harassed…42 per cent of those in the global study had been the target of online sexist attacks on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) (Inter-Parliamentary Union [IPU], 2019, p 12, 13).” This sexism and gender-based violence may impact women’s desire to enter politics. It does undermine female politicians’ dignity and fundamental rights in a place where gender equality and inclusion should be present and working (IPU, 2019).

Canada’s Labour Code, DIVISION XV.1 SECTION XV.1 defines sexual harassment and outlines employees’ rights and employers’ responsibilities (Government of Canada, 2019). The Ontario Ministry of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety Act also defines workplace sexual harassment and requires policies to address this harassment (Government of Ontario, 2019).

The Vecchio Report (2019) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union Report (2019) provides data regarding gender-based violence towards female politicians, makes recommendations, and provide strategies to eliminate violence towards female politicians. Committees addressing gender equality and women’s issues should be tasked to use these and other relevant documents to reduce gender-based violence against female politicians. This includes creating effective mechanisms to report these incidents to ensure no additional harm is directed at the accuser. The staff, assistants, and public servants working at Queens Park or within any provincial ministry or department should also be involved in this process is important. Likewise, all political parties need to ensure they have policies to protect all members and staff from gender-based violence and harassment. Consulting with experts (e.g. occupational physicians, experts in cyber violence, or workplace psychological and sexual harassment) may be required (IPU, 2019). These policies should be posted on government and party websites to ensure and promote transparency.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario strongly urges the Government of Ontario, specifically the Minister of Labour, Trades and Skills Development, the Attorney General, and the Associate Minister Responsible for Children and Women’s Issues to use the 2019 Elect Her. A Roadmap Improving the Representation of Women in Canadian Politics Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the 2019 Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Guidelines for the Elimination of Sexism, Harassment and Violence Against Women in Parliament, to create policies to ensure a gender sensitive and safe workplace;

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario strongly urges the Government of Ontario specifically the Minister of Labour, Trades and Skills Development, the Attorney General, and the Associate Minister Responsible for Children and Women’s Issues to develop an annual reporting system to ensure compliance with these policies that have been created.


©BPW Ontario

Article ID:4406

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