Upcoming Elections and Women’s Free and Fair Electoral Participation

As the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening the possibility of holding upcoming elections this year in various countries across the globe, Gender Concerns International urges the International Community to prevent the effects of the virus extending into female electoral participation or women’s reproductive rights and advocate for the inclusion of women in governmental leadership positions to ensure the incorporation of female perspectives in policy implementation during the Covid-19 recovery response.

The Covid-19 pandemic causes challenges to international election observation missions, as opportunities for electoral participation are restricted. A growing concern arises that certain governments are adopting authoritarian traits which can curb people’s democratic rights and create further implications on the electoral participation of women. In Hungary, the Prime Minister acquired more power under a state of emergency bill, while future elections were canceled, the scope of media restricted and the movement of people limited. Whereas, in Poland, candidates for the Presidential elections were obliged to suspend their electoral campaigns except the President himself who used his campaign as a means of ‘crisis management’. Such actions hinder democracy itself, other than democratic participation, even more so for women who have been long excluded from the election process.

Such actions not only hinder the legitimacy of democracies itself, they worsen the already restricted electoral participation of women. Moreover, governments are taking advantage of the prohibition of mass gatherings during Covid-19 and the suspension of non-vital surgeries to silently pass further restrictions on abortion policies in countries such as Argentina, Slovakia, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.