Equal Women’s Rights in the EU have come a long way, but the Covid-19 pandemic could put them at risk. Watch our video for some of the milestones. The Covid pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, who account for the majority of workers in essential services, including healthcare, personal care and sales.
Women’s rights have come a long way in the EU. Let’s take a look at some of the milestones along the road to equality. Long before the European Union was born, European leaders were already laying the groundwork for gender equality. In 1957, they signed the Treaty of Rome. It made gender equality a fundamental value of the European Community. In 1975, the Council of the European Communities adopted the principle of equal pay for women.
After the first direct European elections in 1979, Parliament set about choosing its president and elected a woman. “Mrs. Veil: 192 votes” “It is a great honour to be called to serve as president of the European Parliament.” In its second term in 1984, Parliament established its Committee on Women’s Rights.
EU charter of fundamental rights
In 2000, the EU published its charter of fundamental rights. It states that equality between women and men must be ensured in all areas. In 2014, MEPs adopted a directive to combat violence against women and human trafficking. “Violence against women is a severe violation of human rights in the form of gender-based discrimination. It is the root cause of gender inequality.”
Work-life balance in the EU
In 2019, MEPs set out to improve work-life balance in the EU with rules on parental leave, flexible working arrangements and time-off for carers. “This goes beyond increasing the rights of parents and carers. It will also lead to greater gender equality so that responsibilities can be better shared.” Women won a record 40% of the seats in the 2019 European elections. With the spread of Covid-19, MEPs highlighted the plight of women in the pandemic. “We must make Team Europe a shining light for women and girls across the world, a byword for a brighter post-Covid future.”
Measures to protect women’s rights
In 2021, Parliament called for measures to protect women’s rights and ensure they are protected against domestic violence during and after the crisis. “Not only can women weather any crises, they are also at the forefront of future politics. Let’s finally make the 21st century the century of women.” The European Parliament is now pushing for a more ambitious gender equality strategy, focusing on ending gender-based violence and closing gender gaps, once and for all.
Gender equality is a fundamental EU value but there are still many challenges and the European Parliament has called for action to address them, particularly as inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Equality between women and men must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay.
Article 23 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
As the Parliament marks International Women’s Day on 8 March, find out what action it has taken recently to improve gender equality:
Guaranteeing climate justice – adopting measures to mitigate the impact of climate change on women (2017)
Combatting sexual harassment in the workplace, public place, political life, online and offline (2018)
Adopting new rules on work-life balance with higher minimum standards for parental and carers’ leave (2019)
Calling for specific reduction targets, investment, working arrangements and training to close the gender pay gap (2020)
Calling for the eradication of female genital mutilation (2020)
Promoting female participation in the digital economy and proposing measures to tackle the digital gender gap and encourage girls to study science, technology, engineering maths as well as ICT subjects (2021)
Reiterating the call for countries to ratify the Istanbul Convention fighting gender-based violence (2021)
Gender and the recovery
Parliament wants the European Commission and EU countries to allocate resources to help women recover from the crisis, particularly regarding employment, violence and health rights. It also wants gender equality to be one of the priorities of the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.
International Women’s Day 2020
On 8 March, the Parliament will mark International Women’s Day during its plenary session. A few days before that on 4 March, the women’s rights committee will host the event We are strong: women leading the fight against Covid-19.
this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March, the European Parliament is marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration on gender equality.
What is the Beijing Declaration?
In 1995, the UN’s 4th World Conference on women adopted a resolution. This was focusing on the empowerment and advancement of women around the world. It set out strategic objectives to achieve gender equality in 12 areas. The resolution included the economy, violence against women, women in power and women and the environment. As the vote took place in Beijing, this resolution is known as the Beijing Declaration.