Qualitative Research Report on Violence Against Women In Politics
in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands
Women are historically underrepresented in politics in the Pacific Islands; Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), and the Solomon Islands are no exception. The convergence of traditional patriarchal gender stereotypes and societies accustomed to gender-based violence prevents women from claiming their political rights in democratic processes. This assessment builds on and contributes to research and action by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to eliminate violence against women in politics (VAW-P).
The assessment found that socio-cultural and institutional factors influence and create barriers to women’s political participation, with many citizens in the region associating politics with men and view political leadership as a masculine trait. Institutional barriers, such as electoral systems and political parties, impact the extent to which women compete in the political arena. Despite having different experiences, levels of success, and different political approaches, women in all three countries experience violence because of their activism.
Focusing on both politically-active women and men for a comparative, gender-sensitive view, most participants in the assessment agreed that VAW-P impacts the ambition and overall participation of women in politics. Fear of ostracization or being viewed as a “victim” and a lack of faith in the justice system—fueled by impunity—prevent most women from reporting violence against them. Although all three countries included in this research have legal provisions outlawing violence against women and many institutions have policies to regulate behavior among members, participants noted that institutional mechanisms to prevent VAW-P are inadequate or not appropriately enforced.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on women’s political participation in the three countries. Outside of extraordinary election events, in PNG and Solomon Islands, participants reported that where work has slowed down for everyone, women’s political activity has also slowed directly impacting advocacy for women’s rights at a time when it’s critically needed. The assessment confirmed that combating gender-based violence in general and VAW-P, in particular, requires the efforts of a multitude of stakeholders, including election management bodies, political parties, police and security forces, and civil society organizations, particularly women’s organizations.