30 June: International Day of Parliamentarianism

Instituting an international day for parliaments is particularly important at this critical time for parliamentary democracy, when people are losing trust in political institutions and democracy itself is facing challenges from populist and nationalist movements. If democracy is to thrive, then parliaments, as the cornerstone of functioning democracies, need to be strong, transparent, accountable, and representative.

The International Day of Parliamentarism is celebrated every year on 30 June, the date in 1889 on which the IPU was founded. The Day was established in 2018 through a United Nations General Assembly Resolution. The International Day of Parliamentarism is a time to review the progress that parliaments have made in achieving some key goals to be more representative and move with the times, including carrying out self-assessments, working to include more women and young MPs, and adapting to new technologies. In 2021, the IPU and its Member Parliaments will mark the Day with a number of events focusing on youth empowerment following the recent launch of the IPU campaign- I Say Yes to Youth in Parliament!

Participation of Women: Way Forward

While more women than ever are being elected to parliaments around the world, equality is still a long way off, and current progress is far too slow. Most parliaments are still heavily male-dominated, and some have no women MPs at all. Even where women are present in greater numbers, glass ceilings often remain firmly in place.

Women running for election face numerous challenges—including addressing discrimination or cultural beliefs that limit women’s role in society, balancing private, family, and political life, gaining support from political parties, and securing campaign funding. They may also face violence, harassment, and intimidation. Some women may even be dissuaded from running for office, leaving men in positions of power.

In order to address these issues, The Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments was adopted unanimously by the 127th IPU Assembly (Quebec City, October 2012). It is a key policy document for the IPU and its member Parliaments. It was drawn up following extensive consultation with IPU Members and takes account of the findings and recommendations of the IPU Global Survey on Gender-sensitive Parliaments: A Global Review of Good Practice, published in 2011.

A gender-sensitive parliament is one that responds to the needs and interests of both men and women in its structures, methods, and work. The Plan of Action is designed to support parliaments’ efforts to become more gender-sensitive institutions and offers a wide range of strategies in seven action areas that all parliaments can implement.

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Shristi Banerjee, 

Practicing Advocate, High Court of Jharkhand (India)