MORE than half of female politicians in Wales say they have been abused or harassed, a new study has found.

The report by the Electoral Reform Society Cymru found 45.5 per cent of all politicians in Wales have been harassed either in their offices or while out campaigning, including 54 per cent of all women who took part in the study.

Among the forms of harassment highlighted in the report, which makes a series of recommendations aimed at increasing diversity in Welsh politics, including gender quotas for election candidates, include being sent excrement in a Valentine's Day card and unwanted sexual advances.

Newport City Council leader Cllr Debbie Wilcox was among those who was interviewed as part of the report and said the scale of harassment had increased dramatically in recent years.

"I’ve never had so much hassle or dissent as I have had in the last two years," she said.

Cllr Wilcox also said she backed the idea of gender quota system.

“I think we will always have to have some sort of quota system," she said. "All those kind of things are important and it’s about breaking through those barriers.”

The report also raised concerns about the number of women elected to councils. Women account for just 28 per cent of councillors in Wales.

Former Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies was also interviewed as part of the report, and said he believed there is work to be done to increase representation of women, as well of people of ethnic and other minority groups, in politics as a whole.

"If you look at the images coming out of the House of Commons, you see a wall of men debating and discussing and subconsciously people from an ethnic or diverse background, disabilities or women could think ‘that’s not for me’," he said.

"He added: "Is there more we can do? Of course there is more we can do.”

There has never been a female Conservative MP in Wales.

Director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru Jess Blair said: “This report offers a shocking account of the realities of being a politician in Wales.

"Some of the abuse faced by elected representatives is appalling.

“It’s no wonder given the implications on the lives of those who stand for office that many from communities that aren’t currently represented have been put off from standing.

“We need to look at modernising our institutions and work with parties to identify and develop a more diverse set of candidates. Alongside this we also need to take the levels of abuse and harassment that politicians are facing seriously, and create a set of responses that can more effectively deal with this.

“That over half of female politicians who took part in our report have said they have been abused in office is horrifying. Given this it’s no wonder that many people look at politics and think that’s not for them.

“We hope that this report acts as a wakeup call for political parties, institutions and even social media companies. Our recommendations are varied and may make uncomfortable reading for many parties who currently take little action on diversity, yet we believe they are necessary to create a politics in Wales that better reflects the population."