Sexism and hate speech intensify ahead and during elections, statements

Sexism, gender-based violence and hate speech, which manifest themselves at different levels, still persist. And not only in Moldova, where democracy is still fragile, but also in solid democracies. Unequal treatment is still witnessed in private and public life, feeding on the many forms of sexism, including gender language, sexist speech and behaviour. These phenomena intensify and expand ahead and during election campaigns, said participants in a roundtable meeting organized by the Council of Europe in cooperation with UN Women Moldova and the Central Election Commission (CEC), IPN reports.

The Head of the Council of Europe Office in Chisinau Falk Lange believes that sexism, hate speech and gender-based violence have no place in a fair society. But especially when these toxic elements infiltrate into political discourse, the whole essence of democracy is undermined. “Our commitment to democratic values requires that we create an electoral environment free of discrimination and harmful rhetoric,” said Falk Lange.

CEC head Angelica Caraman said that gender-based violence or hate speech are elements of manipulation in elections, especially for the public that is not well informed. And although penalties are stipulated, there are still cases when the victims of these forms of violence don’t dare to report them. This happens either out of lack of information, embarrassment, fear or due to the feeling that “things cannot change anyway”. “Today we won’t really hear the phrases of the past, such as “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”. Today the messages are more subtle. Today the competence or professionalism of women is questioned. We hear messages like “A woman president, director, mayor, minister does not represent me”. Or “What does she understand in roads, in networks?” or “What a great specialist she can be”. These are expressions that have no place in a democratic society,” said the official.

Dominika Stojanoska, UN Women Representative to Moldova, noted that we are at a time when there are important developments in terms of parity, representation. Today there is a 40% quota of representation in Parliament and the results at the local level are also promising, but it’s necessary to remain vigilant because there are yet many structural barriers, including hate speech. All forms of violence intensify during elections. “Elections are approaching and we must make a collective effort to further support the government’s efforts, to strengthen legal accountability for these acts. The whole narrative needs to be changed – the women can have equally valuable opinions and contributions, in all areas, not only social, education, childcare, but also in infrastructure, economic development, etc.” stated Dominika Stojanoska.

Attending the event, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Moldova Jānis Mažeiks said that the EU is based on values – respect for human rights, human dignity, democracy, equality, rule of law, etc. And any form of hatred is incompatible with these values. It’s important to combat hate speech, especially in the media, and the monitoring of this is essential. However, hate speech intensifies and gains momentum especially ahead and during election campaigns.

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