The High Cost of Women’s Leadership: Violence Against Women in Politics

Friday, August 25, 2023

“VAW-P damages the political profiles of women, ultimately their success - not only those on the ballot and in political office but also voters, electoral officials, civil society activists - fundamentally all those who are involved in political and public life.“

Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, Senior Country Director, NDI Kosovo

 

To achieve a democracy that truly serves all citizens, it is imperative to establish an environment where every representative can freely fulfill their roles without the specter of repression, backlash, discrimination, or violence. Regrettably, this environment remains elusive for women involved in political and public affairs. Despite their advancing presence in political life and leadership positions, women still face a challenging and hostile political climate.

The escalating threat of Violence against Women in Politics (VAW-P) poses a significant challenge to democracy by attempting to marginalize women from various political roles. This includes discouraging their participation as civic leaders, activists, voters, political party members, candidates, elected representatives, appointed officials, or election administrators, solely based on their gender. 

Unfortunately, this concerning phenomenon also impacts women involved in political and public life in Kosovo, presenting an additional obstacle to their professional advancement and pursuit of active leadership positions. NDI’s public opinion poll of June 2023 shows that 46% of citizens strongly agree/agree that VAW-P is widespread in Kosovo. 

Hence, in response to the rising concern about this form of violence in Kosovo, NDI has supported the production of a documentary titled “The High Cost of Women’s Leadership: Violence Against Women in Politics.” This documentary was first launched in the Opening Conference of the Week of Women 2023, and it aims to shed light on and showcase violence faced by women in political and public life solely because of their gender. 

Moreover, the documentary shows that such a phenomenon is not only pervasive in Kosovo but it also impacts women from the region, reinforcing the fact that VAW-P targets women precisely because of their gender. It also demonstrates that VAW-P is not only restricted to women holding formal political roles, but it also targets women from the business, media and other spheres of public life. 

NDI also recognizes that VAW-P does not affect all women equally or in the same ways. Women who are members of other marginalized groups are disproportionately targeted for abuse. NDI’s research shows that the attitude towards women from non majority communities participation in politics is more restrictive for them than for their Kosovo Albanian counterparts.

As the NotTheCost campaign makes clear, violence against women in politics is a grave issue that affects the development of strong, inclusive and democratic societies, as well as global progress toward gender equality.

Further, Kosovo is among the few countries to have initiated the criminalization of  Violence Against Women in the Public Sphere. Article 248/A of the Draft Law on Amending and Supplementing the Criminal Code No. 06/L-074 of the Republic of Kosovo states that whoever exerts deliberately, to intimidate or force them to act against their will, physical, psychological, sexual, or economic violence, in a direct or indirect form, against women exercising public functions or candidates for the exercise of public functions shall be punished by fine and imprisonment from six (6) months to three (3) years. 

In the documentary, the Minister of the Ministry of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, addresses these amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code sanctioning verbal abuse against women in public life, adding that women who are already involved in politics must serve as an example of addressing cases of violence.

“I would have been very pleased if this law had been in force at the time when I was the President because I acted in full isolation and in a considerable legal vacuum(…).”

Atifete Jahjaga, Former President of the Republic of Kosovo

 

NDI is committed to raising awareness and ending violence against women in politics (VAW-P), which NDI research shows is a key driver of the withdrawal from online political discourse and discourages other women from joining public and political life.

The video was made possible by NDI Kosovo through the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The opinions expressed in the video are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, SDC and respective governments.

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