Sexism In Parliament: The Numbers Don't Lie - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Sexism In Parliament: The Numbers Don’t Lie

Published October 24, 2019

Sam O'Donnell
Main photo by
Art Bicnick

According to a new study, around 80% of women in Parliament are exposed to gender-based violence. In May, the study surveyed 33 women who are working in or have recently quit Parliament, with 25 women responding. The results of the study are presented in a new book by Dr. Haukur Arnþórsson, which was released on October 18.

The study finds that about 80% of Icelandic women in Parliament have been exposed to psychological violence, and 28% have been subjected to sexual violence. Additionally, 24% reported physical abuse, and 20.8% said they had experienced economic violence. Economic violence occurs when women are denied terms of employment or facilities to which their position should entitle them, or when their property is damaged.

Something we need to talk about

“This is quite an unbelievably high percentage who are named here, and I expect that this matter will be taken up in Parliament,” Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir (seen above) told RÚV following the study’s publication. “According to the news, this is happening to a significantly greater degree here than elsewhere in Europe, but one may also ask themselves if we are more willing—which is also in some ways positive—to talk more about these things here than anywhere else.”

The results of the study were compared to a comprehensive survey of gender-based violence conducted by the International Parliamentary Assembly in collaboration with the Council of Europe in 2018. Based on this comparison, it is apparent that the proportion of women who have experienced gender-based violence is higher in the Icelandic parliament than in other European nations.

More about gender-based violence in Iceland

The greatest disparity between Europe and Iceland is the number of Parliamentarian women who have experienced physical and economic violence. In Europe, 14.8% admitted to having experienced physical violence, 9% less than in Iceland. Similarly, there is a 7 point disparity between European and Icelandic women who have suffered economic violence.

The study includes a number of other factors. For example, women tend to serve shorter terms in Parliament than men, and 63.5% of women in Parliament are from the top layers of society.

Katrín believes that many have been affected by the #MeToo movement, and have realized how widespread both gender-based violence and sexual harassment are.

“We have now been at the forefront when it comes to gender equality in the world, but I think many people have had a shock experiencing this violence culture that is linked to the gender system in our community. But the good thing about this is that I think we are starting to talk a lot more and more openly about it,” she said.

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