Women in Southeastern Europe (SEE) remain significantly under-represented 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 primary reasons women are discouraged from participating, 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 designed to control, limit or prevent women’s full and equal political participation (National Democratic Institute 2021).
To address VAW-P, it is necessary to understand its forms, where it occurs and why. Unfortunately, such violence is widespread and systemic. Closely connected with patriarchy and the overall perception of women in SEE societies, VAW-P also preserves traditional gender roles and stereotypes. It is a globally under-reported phenomenon, often normalised and tolerated, with the vast majority of women who have experienced attacks likely to remain silent about them. This violence has enduring consequences for women, their families, their political careers, and ultimately for the health of democracy itself.
This research will help inform the design and implementation of programmes addressing VAW-P. Particularly relevant for the SEE region will be raising awareness, working with young politicians, governments, parliaments and the media in programmes that will change the political culture for one more welcoming of women in public life.
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