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The Work of Equality Bodies informing a new European Commission Strategy for Gender Equality

June 9th 2015

An Equinet Perspective: The Persistence of Discrimination, Harassment and Inequality for Women

The European Commission’s Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010-2015 is under review with a view to developing the future of gender equality. Equinet has prepared this Perspective "The Persistence of Discrimination, Harassment and Inequality for Women" to gather the learning from the work of equality bodies across Europe so as to inform the preparation and content of the new strategy.

The Perspective is based on a workshop of the Equinet Gender Equality Working Group and a survey of its member equality bodies that was responded to by 26 equality bodies. The work of the equality bodies is gathered and analysed under five different headings:

  • Mainstreaming led initiatives: focus on issues of equal pay, work-life balance and policy-making.
  • Litigation led initiatives: focus on issues of pregnancy-related discrimination, harassment on the ground of gender and sexual harassment, and goods and services. Litigation led work included a focus on under-reporting of discrimination.
  • Communication led initiatives: focus on addressing gender stereotypes.
  • Activities in relation to men: focus on litigation, the role of men in gender equality, breaking stereotypes, and equality in the sphere of caring work.
  • Activities in relation to trans people: focus on litigation, research and legal recognition of trans people.

Proposals for the new Strategy are set out based on this analysis of the work of equality bodies and on earlier Equinet initiatives in relation to violence against women, the Gender Goods and Services Directive, work-life balance, equal pay, discrimination against trans people, and harassment on the ground of gender and sexual harassment.

These proposals include the need for the new Strategy to address the challenge of stimulating a new priority for gender equality, finding new activities capable of engaging with the impact of austerity policies, and establishing further ways to measure progress on gender equality, as laid out below.

Need to continue work on the areas prioritised under the current strategy

  1. Gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming in policy-making, policy implementation and policy evaluation, in particular the Europe 2020 Strategy.
  2. Further legislation at European level in relation to the need for reconciliation between work and family life, including a comprehensive leave framework encompassing different forms of statutory leave (including paternity leave), rights in relation to flexible working arrangements and continued work on and adoption of the Maternity Directive.
  3. Action on violence against women including, in particular, harassment on the ground of gender and sexual harassment in the workplace, in education, and in the provision of goods and services.
  4. Segregation in the labour market and unequal pay, with particular attention to transparency and the implementation of the European Commission recommendation on the gender pay gap.

Need to continue work on the horizontal issues prioritised under the current strategy

  1. The role and contribution of men in relation to gender equality.
  2. The elimination of discrimination, gaps in equal treatment legislation, realising the potential of equality bodies, and under-reporting of discrimination.
  3. The elimination of pregnancy-related discrimination in employment, including further legislation to secure the rights of pregnant women and their protection from discrimination.

New priority themes are proposed as part of these proposals

  1. Equality in the field of caring work including promoting workplace practice that is supportive of work-life balance, reversing the increased caring responsibilities on women as a result of austerity policies, the rights of domestic workers, and the role of men in caring work.
  2. Stereotyping on the ground of gender in the media, advertising, and education.
  3. Trans people, Intersex people, and gender identity/gender expression issues.
  4. Multiple discrimination where the ground of gender intersects with the grounds of age, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, and sexual orientation and with issues of poverty and of lone parenting.

Proposals focus on the need to further develop the infrastructure for equality

  1. The inclusion of equality bodies in deliberation, decision-making and monitoring in relation to the Strategy at Member State and European levels.
  2. Developing standards at European level to ensure that the conditions are sufficiently created for equality bodies to achieve their full potential in their work on gender equality.
  3. Measures in equal treatment legislation that require equality action plans on the ground of gender by employers and service providers; that strengthen and support positive action on the ground of gender by employers and service providers; and that require public bodies to have due regard to gender equality in carrying out their functions.
  4. In the absence of such measures, the new Strategy could promote and support the preparation and implementation of equality action plans on the ground of gender on a voluntary basis by employers and service providers; ensure clarification and a broader interpretation as to when positive action can be used and to what extent; and promote and support gender mainstreaming at a national level.

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The Persistence of Discrimination, Harassment and Inequality for Women (2015)
The Persistence of Discrimination, Harassment and Inequality for Women (2015)
Les femmes face aux inégalités, à la discrimination et au harcèlement
Les femmes face aux inégalités, à la discrimination et au harcèlement