The IPU is deeply committed to the principle of men and women sharing responsibility and decision-making. The IPU puts this into practice in its own activities, as well as driving change in parliaments and societies around the world.
This principle of gender equality applies both at IPU events and in its structures and staff, using a variety of mechanisms, including sanctions.
Sanctions can be imposed on Member Parliaments which consistently fail to apply gender equality. Parliaments attending three consecutive IPU Assemblies without both men and women represented in their delegations have their voting rights reduced and the total number of delegates allowed to participate cut back by one.
Similarly, Members attending the IPU Governing Council with an all female or all male delegation have two votes instead of three.
The IPU also insists that its four permanent committees, including a provision that the bureaux which run them, have a minimum of 30 per cent of men or women.
The results are clearly visible. In 1978, only 7.7 per cent of IPU Assembly delegates were women. Now, women MPs regularly account for about 30 per cent of participants and at times, more. The target is to achieve parity.
The IPU has several groups which work to ensure gender equality. These include the Forum of Women Parliamentarians, held twice a year at Assemblies, the Bureau of Women Parliamentarians, which ensures continuity between these meetings, and the Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament. The IPU Gender Partnership Group ensures the views of both men and women are taken into account in the changes we make.
In October 2013 the IPU also formally adopted a policy on gender mainstreaming, guaranteeing equality at the heart of its work.
The IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong is an International Gender Champion, part of a network of decision makers, male and female, who have committed to breaking down gender barriers. He believes that “gender equality is the responsibility of all and progress will only be achieved if we all play our part. We need to challenge those who have not been playing theirs.”
Paddy Torsney, Permanent Observer in the IPU’s New York office, is also an International Gender Champion. “We must work hard to ensure our society is not overlooking the best ideas for action and the best leaders and implementers simply because of their gender,” she says.