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World

REUTERS
March 14, 2018

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Online harassment takes ‘heavy toll’ on women politicians

LONDON: Women politicians are judged more harshly online than their male peers on appearance and marital status, according to an international study comparing how male and female politicians are treated on social media.

After analysing Twitter posts sent to male and female lawmakers, women were found to be three times more likely than men to receive sexist comments, said the study, described by its author as one of the first to quantify the different treatment.

"Sexism and abuse are everyday occurrences for many female politicians who are active online," said Eva Barboni, founder of Atalanta, a British group that aims to boost the number of women in senior government jobs.

"This takes a heavy toll on both the politicians themselves and on our broader democratic debate, particularly when it escalates from harassment to threats," she said in a statement. Social media attacks are so common for female politicians that they deter women from running for office around the world, advocates and female lawmakers say.

By analysing tweets sent between September and November 2017 to three prominent pairs of female and male politicians in Britain, South Africa and Chile, Atalanta found nearly three-quarters of Twitter posts sent to women were to do with their appearance or marital status.

Most of these comments were negative and were unrelated to their competence as politicians, said the report, which also included interviews with women politicians.

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