EWL News

Persisting sex discrimination in access to goods and services, says the EWL and its members

[Brussels, 21 May 2014] Today, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) has sent to the European Commission its evaluation of the implementation of the Directive 2004/113, implementing the principle of equal treatment between women and men in the access to and supply of goods and services. Adopted in 2004, this Directive is instrumental for the achievement of gender equality, as it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex/gender in access to goods and services. For example, the Directive provides protection against discrimination in insurance with respect to costs relating to pregnancy and maternity.

However, the EWL, based on the assessment made by its members, alerts the European Commission on some issues linked to the implementation of the Directive:

Visibility of the Directive:

  • The lack of awareness about the Directive’s legally-binding principles leads to an important underreporting phenomena about cases of discrimination in the access to goods and services.
  • Women’s organisations also lack resources to support individual women in their cases.
  • Discrimination on the basis of sex/gender is still not visible and detected as such, because of the structural nature of inequality between women and men. This leads to a lack of implementation of the Directive.
  • Multiple discrimination involving sex/gender is not understood and tackled in a proper way.
  • Equality bodies play a key role in supporting persons facing discrimination, analysing gaps in legislation and raising awareness of the directive.
  • Targeted institutional mechanisms to promote and implement women’s rights should be established at all levels.

Scope of the Directive

The EWL calls on EU legislation on sex discrimination to cover access to the welfare system, and the content of media or advertising, and public and private education.

Persisting discrimination

  • EWL members highlight cases of discrimination on the basis of pregnancy/maternity, discrimination related to breastfeeding, limited access of domestic workers to sexual and reproductive health services and the protection of maternity.
  • The EWL would like to also highlight persisting cases of discrimination, in situations which are so entrenched in gender stereotypes and structural inequality that they don’t even appear as potential cases to be covered by the Directive.
  • This is also the case of the areas of taxation, access to public benefits, transport services, where gaps are persisting and haven’t been yet identified or studied.

EWL recommendations:

• The EWL would like to see the principle of equal access to goods and services for women and men cover education and the content of media and advertising, and the definition of “goods and services” allow for all goods and services to be covered, including public services.

• Small compensation and limited penalty are obstacles for the effective implementation of the Directive. Compensation and sanctions should be strong enough to allow for a change of mentalities and a culture of reporting and therefore an end to impunity.

• The EWL should monitor that all insurance premiums, including funded pension schemes, will comply with the principle of gender equality as requested by the European Court of Justice ruling C-236/090 and introduce unisex tariffs.

• There is a need to better implement and monitor the directive, including in terms of dialogue with relevant stakeholders (article 11).

• There is a need to explore new areas of goods and services, where cultural/stereotypical views don’t bring people/institutions/NGOs to think about gender discrimination.

• In order to give visibility to the Directive and for it to become an effective tool, there is a need for awareness raising campaigns, legal work to identify gaps, sustainable support to equality bodies, and collaboration with women’s organisations.

You can read the contribution here.

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