Elections are at the core of democracy and the integration of a gender equality perspective is crucial and a central aspect of a functioning democracy.

Gender-specific aspects can be considered in relation to elections, such as the under-representation of women in political and public decision-making, as candidates, as elected decision-makers and in higher levels of the electoral administration, as well as regarding mechanisms to improve the situation. This includes a range of issues such as the role of electoral law, political parties and media, gender-sensitive citizenship education, and the monitoring of elections. Other relevant issues are different voting patterns between women and men, and the involvement of women’s NGOs in activities related to elections. Population census are one of the most important tools for policymakers, as they take stock of the most important asset of a country - its human capital - and allow for the collection of the sex-disaggregated data that is vital for gender equality policies and gender mainstreaming. Census is therefore a rich source of information about the differences between women and men, girls and boys, as well as about their specific needs. Integrating a gender equality perspective in census methods and analysis is vital for policy planning.


Gender mainstreaming in electoral assistance and census at the Council of Europe


Since the early 1990’s, the Council of Europe has worked to support citizen’s participation in elections and in political life, with a special emphasis on women. Women voters and candidates are one of the five topics dealt with by the Division of Electoral Assistance and Census. Activities have been undertaken under the Eastern Partnership Programme in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine on women’s participation in decision making. In this context, a documentary was produced in 2014 and in 2016, a workshop was organised  to address the range of barriers to the realisation of gender equality in political decision making in Ukraine. A regional study on women political representation in the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) showed that in all the countries surveyed women were less likely to run for political office and to be elected both to the national parliaments and to local government bodies. The study also concluded that women held less than 20% of seats in parliament in all the countries, with the exception of Belarus.

Achieving a balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision making is one of the six objectives of the Council of Europe Strategy on Gender Equality 2018-2023. In 2003, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted  Recommendation CM/Rec(2003)3 on balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision making, setting the objective of a minimum representation of each  sex at 40%. The Analytical Report on the Third round  of monitoring of Council of Europe Recommendation Rec (2003) 3 on balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision-making provides comprehensive data on six domains of decision making for 2016. In a Resolution entitled Assessing the impact of measures to improve women’s political representation, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly called on member States to “consider introducing the principle of parity into their constitution or into their electoral legislation”. Also in 2016, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted a Recommendation on women’s political participation and representation at local and regional levels.


See also section on governance and constitutional matters.