New numbers from the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women show that progress of women in politics has stalled in parliaments and at executive levels of government or advanced marginally. The data form the basis of an elaborate Women in Politics 2017 map launched during the recent session at UN headquarters of the Commission on the Status of Women.
As part of an occasional series announcing new research and data, PassBlue reports on this news and other important research findings. The last Take a Look examined the proposed budget cuts to the United Nations by the Trump administration.
Since 2015, a slight drop, from 19 to 17, has occurred in the number of women elected as heads of state or government. The worldwide average proportion of women in national parliaments rose slightly, to 23.3 percent in 2016 from 22.6 percent in 2015. More women, however, are serving as speakers in legislatures.
Statistics displayed on the map show that the numbers of female government ministers have barely changed, rising from 730 in 2015 to 732 in 2017 worldwide, totaling 18.3 percent of ministers on a global average. The largest proportions of women in ministerial positions are found in Europe and the Americas. Bulgaria, France, Nicaragua, Sweden and Canada have surpassed the 50 percent mark in that category.
Among other leaders in the Latin American-Caribbean region were Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago, which passed or approached the 30 percent mark. Among Europeans, Finland experience a dramatic decline in female ministers in 2017, dropping from 62.5 to 38.5 percent.
Data show a negative trend continuing in Africa, with fewer women achieving ministerial positions — 19.7 percent — compared with 25 percent in the Americas, which is up from 22.4 percent in 2015. In Asia, women held 11 percent of ministerial posts, a slight increase since 2015. Indonesia had the highest participation of women in government, at 25.7 percent.
At the bottom, Vietnam and Nepal had steep declines, falling below 5 percent. Gains were minor in Arab nations. Only Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates surpassed 20 percent of women in governments.
• Humanosphere, a website reporting on social trends, has discovered an interactive online guide to global trafficking created by the Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. It found that among people trafficked, the percentage of women has declined, while the proportions of men and children are rising.
The University of Southern California findings and interactive map suggest the reasons for the new data, some of them related more to changing attitudes and greater awareness of abuses than in earlier calculations.
In the case of men, more attention is being paid to broader definitions of forced labor, defined by Annalisa Enrile at the university as “when a person uses threats, abuse, fraud or coercion to force someone to provide labor.” The interactive guide shows a drop to 49 percent from 74 percent in the rate of women among trafficking victims from 2004 to 2011. Men accounted for about 18 percent of victims, up 5 percentage points.
One factor in declining percentages of women may be that trafficking of children is also getting more attention and broader understanding, the university guide shows. More childhood work in agriculture, garment factories and other industries; and greater recognition of sexual abuse of children, many of them girls, has apparently expanded that category, shrinking the generalized percentage of women.
Nearly 21 million people were victims of human trafficking or forced labor in 2012, according to the United Nations International Labor Organization. The illicit practice is most prevalent in the Asia-Pacific region, followed by Africa and Latin America.
• From Europe, another data mapping project, the Contraception Atlas, produced by the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, ranks 45 nations across Europe on access to contraception and family planning. The region, east and west, didn’t score as well as many would expect.
“Our findings show that for many European countries, ensuring that people have choice over their reproductive lives is not a priority,” Neil Datta, secretary of the forum, said in a news release. “Over 43% pregnancies in Europe are unintended. Contraception is used by 69.2% of European women aged between 15 and 49 who are married or living with a partner — lower than the usage rates of both the North America and Latin America/Caribbean regions.”
France and Moldova ranked highest in the west and east, respectively. Russia was at the bottom of all the rankings, with Bulgaria and Greece almost as bad. Six countries had no online information of any kind, and some of them also had high abortion rates and noticeable prevalence of mythology about birth control.
• Virtually in the shadow of UN headquarters, New York City has its own multicultural, multilingual universe. It is called Queens, one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. Business Insider, an online publication, recently reproduced a mind-boggling map to prove that Queens is “The World’s Languages Capital.” The city is reported to speak about 800 languages, “and nowhere in the world has more than Queens, according to the Endangered Language Alliance.”
The linguistic map of Queens is from “Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas,” by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, who say “the capital of linguistic diversity, not just for the five boroughs, but for the human species, is Queens.” Their map, as reproduced in partly interactive form, by Business Insider.
Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.
Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”
Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.