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Community framework strategy on gender equality (2001-2005)

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1) OBJECTIVE

To establish a framework for action providing for gender mainstreaming in all Community activities in such a way that they help to attain the goal of removing inequalities and promoting gender equality.

2) ACT

Commission Communication of 7 June 2000: "Towards a Community framework strategy on gender equality (2001-2005)" [COM(2000) 335 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

3) SUMMARY

This Communication aims to contribute to the fight against gender inequality in economic, political, civil and social life. The framework strategy is based on a dual-track approach. On the one hand, it aims for gender mainstreaming in all Community policies having a direct or indirect impact on the gender equality objective (proactive intervention). Alongside this overall approach, the framework strategy proposes, on the other hand, the introduction of special measures for women; these are still needed to remove persistent gender inequalities. This mainstreaming approach marks a major change compared to past Community action in this area which was based mainly on separate activities and programmes.

To develop the horizontal and coordinating actions, the Commission also proposes a supporting programme for the framework strategy to provide back-up for organising awareness-raising campaigns, improving data collection and implementing transnational projects.

The proposed framework strategy encompasses five inter-related fields of action, each one having different operational objectives: economic life, equal participation and representation, social rights, civil life, and gender roles and stereotypes.

Promoting gender equality in economic life

The Lisbon European Council of March 2000 invited the Commission and the Member States to further all aspects of equal opportunities in employment policies, including reducing occupational segregation and helping to reconcile working and family life. In this context, the Commission strategy sets three operational objectives:

  • strengthening the gender dimension in the European Employment Strategy. It will involve in particular encouraging lifelong learning and access to active labour market measures for women and promoting their employability and access to IT jobs;
  • improving the use of the Structural Funds for the promotion of gender equality, notably through EQUAL, Interreg, Urban and Leader;
  • developing strategies to encourage gender mainstreaming in all policies which have an impact on the place of women in the economy. In this context, it will be necessary to develop dialogue with the top management of enterprises operating in Europe on their contribution to gender equality in economic life. It is also suggested to create a European label (equality prize or certificate) to be awarded annually to enterprises which have developed good practice to promote gender equality.

Promoting equal participation and representation

The persistent under-representation of women in all areas of decision-making sustains a democratic deficit which requires differing measures to meet the following objectives:

  • improving the gender balance in political decision-making. The measures will be orientated, inter alia, towards assessment of the influence of electoral systems, legislation, quotas and other measures on gender balance in elected political bodies. They will also focus on the introduction of awareness-raising activities addressed to citizens on the need for gender balance in elected political bodies and inside political parties' structures;
  • improving the gender balance in economic and social decision-making. To this end, the Commission recommends monitoring and evaluating the transition from education and training to working life as well as recruitment and career development for potential female top managers. It also proposes to establish and maintain a full set of regularly updated statistics on women in decision-making positions;
  • improving gender balance in the European Commission.

Promoting equal access and full enjoyment of social rights for women and men

Equal access and full enjoyment of social rights are among the pillars of all democratic societies. Yet many women do not have equal access to social rights because some of these rights are based on an outdated male breadwinner model and do not take into account the fact that women predominantly carry the burden of having to reconcile family and working life. Many social protection systems perpetuate this outdated model which partly explains the feminisation of poverty in the European Union. The Community actions will therefore need to aim at:

  • improving the application of European legislation, particularly on social protection, parental leave, maternity and working time. To this end it will be necessary to ensure the follow-up and assessment of implementation of this legislation in the Member States and to raise awareness among non-governmental organisations (NGOs), social partners, labour inspectorates and the legal profession about EU legislation and case law in the social area. In addition, the Commission intends to put forward a directive based on Article 13 of the Treaty to ensure equal treatment for women and men in matters other than employment;
  • supporting information and dissemination activities regarding EU social legislation, targeted at EU citizens;
  • monitoring the integration of a gender perspective in the design, implementation and evaluation of Community policies influencing the daily life of women and men, such as transport, public health, external relations, including human rights policies, and the Community programme to fight discrimination based on Article 13 of the Treaty.

Promoting gender equality in civil life

This theme aims to strengthen and further the development of the enforcement mechanisms of the equal treatment legislation, together with better awareness of and training on equality rights and the human rights of women. The measures will be orientated towards training on equality legislation for the legal profession and informing NGOs about this legislation. Particular attention needs to be paid to women who are subject to multiple discriminations (such as migrant women or women with disabilities) or women who face violence and/or sexual exploitation. The EU has set in place a European-wide policy to combat violence against and trafficking in women, notably through the STOP programme, and subsequently the DAPHNE initiative and the new DAPHNE programme (2002-2003). Further action in this area is still needed however and will involve:

  • monitoring Community law and case law on equal treatment for women and men and, if required, proposing new legislation. It is planned in particular to review Directive 75/117 on equal pay and explore possibilities for its improvement. The Commission also proposes to reinforce the role and powers of the labour inspectorate bodies with regard to equal pay legislation. Steps will also be taken to support specific information and training on equality legislation and the human rights of women for the legal professions, labour inspectorates and social partners;
  • promoting women's rights as human rights by supporting awareness-raising campaigns in the EU and in the applicant countries. It is also necessary to support networking in order to collect comparable data on gender-related violations of human rights and sex discrimination cases. The goal is also to ensure that the specific needs and/or particular situations of women are duly taken into account, where relevant, within initiatives in the fields of asylum and entry and stay of third-country nationals on the territory of the Member States;
  • fighting gender-related violence and trafficking of human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation. To that end, it is planned in particular to promote training and awareness-raising among the police and the judicial authorities, supporting their cross-border cooperation and the exchange of information and best practices within the EU and, in particular, between the EU and the candidate countries.

Promoting change of gender roles and stereotypes

This area of action aims to address the need to change behaviour, attitudes, norms and values which define and influence gender roles in society through education, the media, arts, culture and science in particular. Eliminating prejudices and stereotypes is paramount for the establishment of gender equality. The Commission accordingly proposes to undertake the following measures with the aim of:

  • raising awareness about gender equality. It is proposed in particular to boost efforts to eradicate stereotypical gender discrimination in education, for example in education and materials, and to develop good practices in this field;
  • overcoming gender stereotypes in and via relevant Community policies. It is recommended in particular to discuss with the existing national ethical committees the inclusion of a gender dimension in their remit as well as support for networking of national ethical committees. Exchanges of views will also be promoted together with good practices in the media and establishment of a group of media representatives to assist the Commission in launching talks in the framework of this objective.

4) IMPLEMENTING MEASURES

5) FOLLOW-UP WORK

Report [COM(2003) 98 final - Not yet published in the Official Journal]

Commission report of 3 March 2003: Annual Report on Equal Opportunities for women and men in the European Union 2002

A status report on the strategy is set out in the annual Commission reports on equal opportunities for women and men in the EU including the above 2002 report.

Last updated: 08.05.2003
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