Violence Against Women in Politics in Southeastern Europe

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

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Gender equality is central to EU membership (Romania) and accession treaties (Albania, BiH, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia). Nonetheless, women in political life in SEE face many obstacles, including gender-based discrimination and stifling traditional gender roles. Women are politically underrepresented in all SEE countries, and in all decision-making bodies. Women from ethnic minority groups as well as LGBTQI+ communities face further marginalization and exclusion.

Women in Southeastern Europe (SEE) remain significantly underrepresented at all levels of political decision-making. There are numerous barriers to women’s political participation in addition to a unique form of violence against women in public space, a phenomenon which is one of the major reasons women are discouraged to participate, especially in politics. While both men and women experience violence in politics, women are subjected to particular types of violence and intimidation that would rarely, if ever, happen to men. The research on Political participation and Violence against Women in Politics (VAW-P) undeniably identifies psychological violence as the most common form of abuse against politically active women in SEE. It encompasses a spectrum of acts committed in person and, increasingly, online, that are designed to control, limit or prevent women’s full and equal political participation.

NDI’s qualitative research in six countries (Albania, BiH, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia) found a number of challenges to increasing this participation. The research particularly focused on participants’ awareness, types, and frequency of VAW-P.This research investigated socio-cultural norms that impact women’s political participation and leadership in politics. These factors include the pervasiveness of stereotypical roles of women and men in society, lack of visibility of women's contributions to public and political action, and perceptions of politics as a male-dominated field. The research particularly focused on participants’ awareness, types, and frequency of VAW-P.

This research will add to NDI’s more than five years of global analysis to help inform the design and implementation of programs which will address VAW-P. Particularly relevant for the SEE region will be raising awareness, working with young politicians, governments, parliaments and the media in programs that would lead to change of political culture more welcoming of women in public life.

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