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Equal treatment for men and women

As early as 1957, the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community enshrined the principle of equality between men and women by requiring at first that they should receive equal pay for equivalent work.

Since 1975 a series of directives have broadened the principle of equality between men and women to cover working conditions, training and promotion, social security, access to goods and services, maternity protection and parental leave. Afterwards, this principle was extended to the defence of rights, compensation for victims and the burden of proof in the judicial process.

The Amsterdam Treaty enabled the gender dimension to be integrated into all Community policies and established the principle of equal treatment as a fundamental right. The European Union (EU) also recognises the principle of non-discrimination which forms the foundation of the fight against unequal treatment. The Nice Treaty recognised the need to adopt positive actions to encourage women to participate in the labour market.

The Lisbon Treaty establishes the principle of equality between men and women as a common value of the European Union (Article 2 of the EU Treaty (EUT)). The Union promotes equality (Article 3 of EUT) and combats inequalities through the actions it implements (Article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU)).

The principle of equal treatment is also a right written down in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Through being integrated into the TEU, the Charter has become binding.

The Commission added a Community strategy (2001-2005), pursued through the PROGRESS Programme (2007-2013), to the multi-annual programmes promoting equal treatment, which were started in the 1980s.

Since 2006 a new strategy has been in place. It is based on the 2006-2010 road map and its annual work programmes. It applies to the priority action areas, such as:

  • economic independence,
  • work/life balance,
  • equal representation in public life and decision-making,
  • eradicating violence and the trafficking of women,
  • eliminating stereotypes present in society,
  • promoting equality between the sexes outside the EU.

In addition, a European Institute for equality between men and women was created in Vilnius (Lithuania) in 2006.

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