Political rights

Help advance women’s political rights in Ecuador

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This article is part of IPS special coverage of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020

United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA)*

Orange the World march in Ecuador. November 2019. Credit: UN Women/Johis Alarcón

QUITO, Ecuador, Mar 2, 2020 (IPS) – The inclusion of women in political processes is one of the key ingredients for lasting peace.

Although the number of women in political office has increased around the world over the past 25 years, progress has been slow.

As of January 1, 2020, only four countries had at least 50% women parliamentarians (Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia and United Arab Emirates).

In the Americas region, in October 2019, an average of 30.6% of parliamentarians were women. In December 2019, the National Assembly of Ecuador approved a set of reforms aimed at advancing gender parity and overcoming the barriers that prevent women candidates from accessing elective office. .

UN data, analysis and recommendations have contributed to what is considered a milestone in the country.

The United Nations and other international organizations will devote considerable time and attention in 2020 to assessing progress (or lack thereof) in increasing women’s participation in political and peace processes.

Twenty years after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325, the consensus, supported by evidence, is that the participation of women in peacemaking and peacebuilding contributes to the quality and sustainability of peace after a conflict.

There is also growing evidence that women’s leadership in political decision-making processes improves those processes. Adding to this body of evidence is a recent study (in Spanish) by UN Women, carried out in cooperation with the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), on the situation in Ecuador.

The South American country ranks sixth in Latin America, out of 33 countries, in terms of the number of women legislators in the National Assembly. However, the number of women elected at the local level is very low.

The UN study aimed to determine, among other things, why this was so and what could be done about it. The research identifies discrimination, but also political violence against women, as reasons for the low number of female civil servants in the country.

The study includes information from 154 people, including 41 women candidates and 12 focus groups during the March 2019 elections. It focuses on the situations of discrimination and violence that women experience when choosing a party and of a political movement; registration of their applications; taking office as authorities; in the exercise of their functions and during the campaign and the electoral process.

The results show that violence against women candidates takes place within their families, communities and political parties. The violence is largely psychological, but it is also physical and sexual. This violence is a major obstacle to women’s access and participation in politics.

Sixty-six percent of women surveyed said psychological violence was the most common manifestation of political violence, including reputational damage and rumor campaigns against them; making them invisible, giving little publicity to their candidacy or governance, and isolating, excluding or marginalizing them; and party members or local government officials concealing information or providing false information.

A third of the women who responded mentioned being bullied, teased and publicly teased, prevented from speaking or expressing their thoughts.

The perpetrators of gender-based political violence against women were political actors (political party leaders, election candidates, political party activists and election campaign staff); societal actors (voters, family members, community members or groups, religious or traditional leaders, media and social networks, employers and co-workers); and government stakeholders (police, military and other government personnel from all branches of state, including election officials and staff).

In June 2019, the DPPA adopted a new Policy on Women, Peace and Security calling for specific efforts to advance gender equality and the inclusion and empowerment of women, including necessary measures to promote women’s political participation through legislation.

An electoral needs assessment mission deployed to Ecuador in May 2019 explicitly recommended supporting the National Electoral Council to prevent and mitigate violence against women in politics.

In partnership with UN Women Ecuador, DPPA supported efforts to address political violence against women, promoting the links between SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions and SDG 5 on gender equality.

The UN study recommended specific structural reforms of the legal and institutional framework, as well as the promotion of cultural change through the women’s movement and the media. The study notably called for changes to prevent, identify, denounce and punish violence against women candidates.

In August 2019, the Institute of Democracy of the National Electoral Council organized two public debates in Quito and Guayaquil on the findings of the study.

The information and analysis contained in the study, the comments of women politicians and the joint work between the National Electoral Council, the Institute of Democracy and UN Women, with the support of the DPPA, formed the basis of a project proposal to amend the Code of Democracy. .

The National Electoral Council submitted the proposal to the National Assembly in fall 2019. On December 3, 2019, the National Assembly approved the reform package, with key provisions to advance gender parity and combat against violence against women candidates.

Diana Atamaint, the President of the National Electoral Council, welcomed the reforms and thanked the United Nations for its contributions through data, analysis and recommendations, at this important stage.

The reforms include gender equality headings in the lists of candidates in a progressive manner: 15% of women by 2021, 30% in 2023, until reaching 50% in 2025.

Presidential pairs must be composed of male-female or female-male candidates by 2025. In addition, provisions on political violence include specific sanctions against gender-based political violence.

*The article was first published in the online magazine of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA)