Ahead of International Women's Day, the European Commission strengthened and deepened its commitment to equality between women and men with a Women's Charter.
This political declaration sets out five key areas for action and commits the Commission to building a gender perspective into all its policies for the next five years while taking specific measures to promote equality.
"This Charter represents the commitment of the Commission to making gender equality a reality in the EU. Women and men still face widespread inequalities, with serious repercussions for economic and social cohesion, sustainable growth and competitiveness, and the ageing of Europe's population. It is therefore important to include a strong gender dimension in the future Europe 2020 strategy that the Commission will develop in the next five years. Especially in times of crisis, we need to incorporate the gender dimension in all of our policies, for the benefit of both women and men," said President José Manuel Barroso.
The Charter presents a series of commitments based on agreed principles of equality between women and men. It aims to promote:
- equality in the labour market and equal economic independence for women and men, namely through the Europe 2020 strategy;
- equal pay for equal work and work of equal value by working with Member States to reduce significantly the gender pay gap over the next five years;
- equality in decision-making through EU incentive measures;
- dignity, integrity and an end to gender-based violence through a comprehensive policy framework;
- gender equality beyond the EU by pursuing the issue in external relations and with international organisations.
The Charter responds in particular to the European Parliament's request to step up action to tackle violence. "I am particularly proud to be in charge of putting in place a comprehensive and effective policy framework to combat gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is a violation of fundamental rights, in particular human dignity, the right to life and the right to the integrity of the person. I will ensure that strong measures on the eradication of female genital mutilation are part of the strategy," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and Vice-President of the European Commission.
A new Eurobarometer survey on gender equality also released today shows that 62% of Europeans believe that gender inequality still exists in many areas of society. The survey also reveals that Europeans' top two priorities for action in this field are tackling violence against women and closing the gender pay gap (respectively 92% and 82% of respondents believe these issues should be addressed urgently). In addition, 61% believe that decisions at EU level have an important role to play in the fight against gender inequality.
The Charter will be followed by a new strategy for gender equality to be adopted by the Commission in mid-2010. The strategy will provide a coordinated framework for action across all EU policies.
The initiative comes 15 years after the Beijing Platform for Action agreed at the United Nations' Fourth Conference for Women. It follows a commitment made by President Barroso to establish a Women's Charter in his speech to the European Parliament on 5 September 2009.