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EU Policy on Gender Equality


The French minister of Women's Rights, Najat Belkacem-Vallaud, announced last Wednesday that since January four companies had been fined for failing to comply with gender equality. Although there has been some improvement, some might wonder whether the European policy on equality is actually effective or not. 

Since the creation of the European Union, gender equality is a fundamental principle as stipulated in the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in 2000. They promote equality between men and women and try to eradicate inequalities and discriminations between gender in all domains, particularly in terms of employment, work and remuneration. In addition, funding programs such as “Progress” or “Daphne III” were created to contribute to the realization of the objectives of the Europe 2020’s strategy.

Despite identical rights given by law, it is very different for women in real life. Indeed, a variation of remuneration of 16% persists between men and women and confirms that disparities and discriminations are still on the agenda. Women are paid less and face strong inequalities regarding decisions-making positions.

Indeed, in Europe, women occupy only 30% of managerial positions. Furthermore, family responsibilities remain uneven and women with children are less likely to get a job than a man in the same situation would. Despite their level of education, women are limited in terms of career development, remuneration as well as retirement compared to men.

In addition, the European Union remains powerless against the national legislation of some countries, particularly regarding abortion and the protection of women against violence. Indeed, even within Europe, abortion is still illegal in some countries. For instance, it is still prohibited in Malta, while it has been legal in France for over 35 years (voted in 1975).

As for the protection of women against violence, some do not benefit from the same protection within the European Union. In certain European countries, violence against women is not considered as a threat to public order and therefore remains unpunished.

Given the diversity within European countries, the journey towards equality remains ideological. Inevitably, some cultural traditions collide with these laws. Therefore, a change of mentality within our society is essential to achieve equality of gender.

This mental change could take place through education at an early age - to educate young people about gender equality. This change of mentality must also take place through the elimination of stereotypes that predetermine gender roles as can for example be seen in advertising, which tends to convey false images.

In order to make the legislation more effective, laws should be stronger and stricter. They should establish real penalties to companies failing to comply, obliging them to truly change their behavior.

Victoria La Pointe is an intern at UNRIC (United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe)

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