GENEVA, March 5, 2009 (AFP) - Women held a record 18.3 percent of all parliamentary seats worldwide in 2008, the Inter-Parliamentary Union said Thursday.
The number of 8,094 women lawmakers is a 60 percent increase since 1995, when they held just over one in 10 seats, it said.
The trend is uneven with Asian, Arab states and Pacific Island states all showing lower proportions of women in parliament than the global average.
"It is unfortunate that we are not seeing progress being made across all parliaments of the world... more needs to be done in those countries where women are largely absent from decision-making bodies," said Theo-Ben Gurira, president of the IPU.
Asia, where access to women was 17.8 percent, registered "the slowest rate of progress in terms of women's access to parliament over the past 15 years."
The Pacific Island states showed the lowest number of women being elected to parliament last year -- just four percent. Arab states posted nine percent in the four parliamentary renewals that took place in 2008.
Latin America registered strong gains last year, with women taking over a quarter seats in the 12 chambers that were renewed.
In Europe, women were elected to one in five seats on offer in the 19 chambers that were renewed.
In Africa, Rwanda shone with more than 56 percent of women members elected to its lower house.
The IPU, set up in 1889, is the international organisation of parliaments of sovereign states and one of its key aims is to promote representative democracy worldwide.