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These Statements lay out the EWL position on topical matters.

 

Civil society proposals for a smart, sustainable and inclusive recovery

Posted on 14 May 2013

(Brussels 14 May 2013) The current European Semester and the formation of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) are considered intensely problematic by many. The European Women’s Lobby, in concert with a host of Brussels based NGOs - EAPN, Eurochild, Eurodiaconia, Caritas Europa, EASPD, AGE-Platform, Green Budget Europe - is today attempting to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the European Semester. Civil society proposals for smart, sustainable and inclusive recovery are presented here in this document.

European Council will debate in June the Commission’s proposals for a social dimension to the EMU. As the EU enters its 5th year of crisis, the EU’s image is overwhelmingly identified with austerity, particularly in countries under the ‘Troika arrangements’. As a result, EU popularity and legitimacy is at an all-time low. Steps are urgently needed to restore the balance between social and sustainable objectives and economic governance, if the EU is to revive trust in its Europe 2020 promises of a smart, sustainable and inclusive recovery based on democratic accountability and engagement.

To find out more, please see here.

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European Women’s Lobby written statement for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

Posted on 16 November 2012

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU) and works to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. We very much welcome the fact that the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) is the priority theme for the 57th session of CSW.

In a global context of economic and social crisis, where women and girls are at greater risk of experiencing male violence, the EWL calls on CSW to be the moment for reiterating the global commitment to put an end to all forms of VAWG. Women’s organisations are expecting UN countries to listen to their voices and expertise and to agree on conclusions building on the existing international human rights instruments while at the same time reinforcing commitments at all levels and providing concrete steps for further action.

Moreover, in a context where women’s rights are under attack at various levels, due to conservatism and antifeminist agendas, it is of crucial importance that UN member states stand for the strongest vision of a global community free from violence against women. Following the failure of CSW to agree on VAWG in 2003 and in 2012, the UN and its member states cannot afford another situation of compromising over women’s human rights and must send a strong and clear sign that we won’t achieve peace until we eliminate all forms of VAWG.

VAWG is the most pervasive violation of women’s human rights in Europe and worldwide

VAWG continues to affect the lives of millions of women and girls, and it is the most pervasive violation of women’s human rights in Europe and worldwide. The persistence of male VAWG in our societies strongly questions our vision of human security and peace: are we really longing for peace when half of the world’s population is experiencing or might experience some form of violence just because they are female?

In Europe, 45% of women have suffered from men’s violence and seven women die every day from male domestic violence. In addition, VAWG remains invisible and underestimated as a structural phenomenon because of the lack of official data, both at European level and in some European countries. This lack of knowledge leads to a lack of services protecting women and of activities aiming at preventing VAWG. For example, only five EU Member States comply with the requirement of one place in a safe shelter per 7500 inhabitants.

Impunity of perpetrators is also still high in Europe. Sexual violence in particular has one of the lowest conviction rates of any crime, and high levels of attrition. Such impunity is even more prevalent when the victims are women with specific needs. Women with disabilities are four times more likely to experience sexual violence and face forced sterilisation or abortion; many of them depend on the perpetrator for their daily care or even survival. Migrant women are denied access to shelters; undocumented women can face deportation when reporting facts of male violence. Worldwide, as many as one in four women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, still birth and abortion.

The urgency of comprehensive policies addressing all forms of VAWG

VAWG impacts on all society. The cost of domestic violence in the EU is estimated at 16 billion Euros per year, whereas the annual EU member states’ budgets for prevention programmes of male violence are 1000 times less. In addition to the direct impacts on individuals and the aggregate costs to society, violence against women and girls shapes women’s and girls’ place in society. At the same time, inequality between women and men creates the conditions for VAWG and legitimises it.

The recession and austerity measures have a detrimental impact on the prevalence of VAWG and on their ability to escape the violence. Studies and reports show that the current economic context aggravates the unequal power relations between women and men and leads to an increase of domestic/intimate relationship violence, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation, and a rise in prostitution and attacks on women affected by prostitution. It also impacts directly on women, as their economic independence is undermined and service providers and public services face funding cuts and cannot therefore provide adequate quality services to women. Women’s organisations in Europe struggle with financial survival: funding cuts reached up to 30% in some countries. NGO-led services to support women victims of violence are also threatened by the tendering and marketization of services, which leaves behind and in isolation many women and girls affected by male violence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has acknowledged that the impact of globalisation and of policies such as deregulation of economies and privatisation of the public sector have tended to reinforce women’s economic inequality, especially within marginalised communities. This is why the issue of VAWG should be both addressed through a strong and consistent strategy, and mainstreamed in all policy areas (such as economic, health, family policies etc.), in order to make sure that those also contribute to ending VAWG.

Building on international human rights agreements to ensure progress on women’s rights

The UN and member states have a duty to protect women and girls worldwide and cannot afford not to reaffirm their commitment to existing agreed language and instruments and to strong action against all forms of VAWG. This issue cannot be left to national considerations, influenced by a profound and structural movement of antifeminist and conservative ideas. During CSW 2012, some countries and organisations contested the goal of equality between women and men, developed argumentation based on religion, tradition or culture to legitimate violations of women’s rights, challenging universal human rights and the global solidarity for women’s rights. Such backlash not only puts women’s sexual and reproductive rights under pressure in all parts of the world and tries to re-qualify the issue of VAWG as a private issue, but it also directly questions women’s participation to political, economic and social life in all countries.

The EWL would like to recall the CSW of the most important international UN instruments, which should be at the core of the 2013 conclusions. CEDAW General Recommendation 19 states that ‘Gender-based violence against women is violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately, and includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty’. The Beijing Platform for Action states that ‘Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women’s full advancement’.

Such internationally agreed human rights instruments make it clear that VAWG is a human rights violation, is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men, is an obstacle to women’s full participation in economic, social, political and cultural life, and has an impact on ALL women and girls on this planet. In Europe, VAWG is an obstacle to the EU Treaty goal of promoting equality between women and men. More importantly, VAWG should be considered as a universal struggle, which cannot tolerate any exception, justification or excuse.

We need strong CSW conclusions demanding comprehensive strategies to end VAWG now!

With its priority theme on VAWG, CSW wants to address more specifically prevention and multisectoral services and responses to victims/survivors. The EWL acknowledges the importance of those two areas, but would like to stress that any improvement in terms of both policies and attitudes should be part of a holistic and integrated strategy. What is referred to as the 6 Ps approach (Policy, Prosecution, Prevention, Protection, service Provision, and Partnership) is the only way to overcome VAWG at all levels, and should therefore be addressed in the 2013 CSW conclusions.

Any action should materialise into a comprehensive Policy framework building on the international human rights definitions of VAWG. It should encompass: legally-binding instruments to ensure that all forms of VAWG are addressed in all countries (Prosecution) and to strengthen the Protection of all women and girls; long-term awareness raising activities and education programmes to foster Prevention; substantial and sustainable funding to support service Providers and build Partnership with NGOs working towards a world free from male VAWG.

At the level of the EU, such requirement should materialize now with the EU taking three main steps: establishing 2015 as the European Year to End VAWG; ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence; and delivering an EU strategy to end VAWG, comprising legally-binding instruments, awareness raising activities, and support to and collaboration with women’s NGOs and service providers. The EWL hopes to see the EU take a strong stance at CSW, speak one voice to defend a progressive agenda to end VAWG, and lead the work towards ambitious 2013 CSW conclusions.

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Eight priorities for the Irish Presidency of the EU

Posted on 8 November 2012

[Brussels, 07 November 2012] On 01 January 2013, Ireland will take on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The European Women’s Lobby calls on the forthcoming Presidency to be a driving force for women’s rights in Europe, especially in the current crisis, ensuring that further cutbacks which would have a long-term negative impact on gender equality are avoided or reversed.

The EWL has listed eight priorities for the Irish Presidency in the area of gender equality and women’s rights:

  1. Ensure no deterioration in the level and predictability of EU funding for activities on women’s rights and gender equality within the final decision on the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020;
  2. Take a leadership role in the Council negotiations to advance the adoption of the revised maternity leave Directive;
  3. Bring back the issue of violence against women on the political agenda of the EU;
  4. Support the proposal and adoption of efficient binding EU-level legislation to reach parity on company boards;
  5. Change legislation in order to reach the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including sexual education and information for all young people;
  6. Stress that the economic independence of women is a condition for equality between women and men throughout their lives and that it includes, among others: quality employment, gender pay, pension and poverty gaps, accessible and affordable care, social and health services;
  7. These issues should be at the core of all mechanisms of the EU 2020 Strategy;
  8. Take a leadership role in developing targets and standards on quality and affordable care services across the life-cycle for children, dependent and elderly persons;
  9. Take a leadership role in the Council negotiations to progress towards the adoption of the draft Directive on combating discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation, including regarding the need to examine causes of multiple discrimination.

Download the EWL’s priorities for the Irish Presidency in PDF:

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EWL Statement to Russian Government: Free Pussy Riot NOW!

Posted on 10 August 2012

EWL Statement to Russian Government: Free Pussy Riot NOW!

[Brussels, 10 August 2012] The litmus test of working democracy in any country is that the artists have the freedom of expression even when they criticise, make a satyr or openly mock official pillars of social and political power, such as the dominant church or the president of the state.

We want to believe that Russia has a real potential for becoming a democratic country.

We call on all relevant authorities of Russia, to pass this simple test. We are sure that you want the world to believe that democracy in Russia is not an empty word, that you are strong enough to ensure real freedom of artistic expression in your country.

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), the largest women’s NGO umbrella organisation in EU, uniting more than 2000 women’s human rights organisations in 30 countreis, calls on you to: Free Pussy Riot NOW!

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EWL Statement on Self-Regulation of Advertising by the Cosmetics Industry

Posted on 4 July 2012

[Brussels, 04 July 2012] The European Women’s Lobby, the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), welcomes the adoption of a Charter and Guiding Principles on Responsible Advertising and Marketing Communication by the European cosmetics industry. While favouring binding measures at EU and national level to ensure respect for and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality in media output, the EWL is supportive of this initiative, and calls for strict implementation and enforcement in all cosmetics advertising across the EU.

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) has long been concerned with the impact of stereotypical, denigrating and/or unrealistic portrayals of women in advertising – as well as an increasing ‘pornification’ of public space – on women’s health and rights. The EWL calls for EU legislative measures accompanied by effective sanctions for the enforcement of the wide range of international and national legislative commitments of States to uphold women’s rights and promote equality between women and men, including in media content, which has a strong impact on public perceptions and social mores.

In this perspective, the EWL is pleased to see the cosmetics industry in Europe commit to implement and enforce self-regulating principles in advertising, including many of the recommendations made by the EWL in May 2011. The EWL recognises the inclusion of broad anti-discrimination provisions including regarding the portrayal of women and men. In addition, the EWL welcomes the following specific commitments:

  • ‘Digital techniques should not alter images of models such that their body shapes or features become unrealistic and misleading regarding the performance achievable by the product.’
  • ‘Cosmetics advertising and marketing communication “should not appear to condone or incite violent, unlawful or anti-social behaviour”.’
  • ‘Models used in advertisements and post production techniques should not appear to promote a preferred body image of extreme thinness.
  • ‘Do not focus on bodies and parts of bodies as objects when not relevant to the advertised product.’
  • ‘Do not stage nude models in a way that is demeaning, alienating or sexually offensive.’
  • ‘Advertising of decorative cosmetics and perfumes should not incite children to overuse of such products.’
  • ‘Advertising of cosmetic products, including images, should not promote early sexualisation of young people.’

The EWL trusts that the cosmetics industry will now do its utmost to ensure the full enforcement of the Charter and Guiding Principles throughout Europe. The document calls for national cosmetics associations to cooperate with their respective Self-Regulatory Organisations (SROs) ‘with a view to having these principles adopted at national level.’ In cases of non-compliance, SROs will then have the mandate to adjudicate on complaints.

The EWL calls for the due adoption of the principles at national level, but is aware that the prominence and power of SROs varies greatly across the EU and that effective action by these bodies to uphold women’s rights is rare. The EWL calls on the cosmetics industry to advocate strong and publicly visible SROs, with effective sanctioning powers, to ensure the credibility of self-regulation. In addition, the EWL calls on the individual members of Cosmetics Europe to promote their commitment to this Charter and Guiding Principles on their advertising and marketing materials, and put in place easy-to-use public complaints and follow-up procedures.

The EWL and its members across Europe will monitor the process of implementation of this initiative, as well as the agreed reporting and review procedures.

Download the Statement in PDF format:

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EWL Statement On the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016

19 June 2012

Posted on 19 June 2012

[Brussels, 19 June 2012] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL),* the largest coalition of women’s NGOs in Europe, welcomes the efforts of the European Commission (EC) to provide an integrated, coherent, and outcome-oriented strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings. The appointment of an EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in 2010 was undoubtedly a first sign of the EU’s will to develop effective policies to eradicate trafficking in human beings.

The EWL has long been calling on the EU and its Members States to tackle trafficking in human beings in a coordinated manner, addressing the root causes of this phenomenon whose victims are mainly women and girls. The EWL therefore welcomes the acknowledgement by the EC that trafficking is rooted in inequality between women and men and violence against women. Indeed, data collected by the EC in September 2011 confirms statistics gathered by the UN: three quarters of registered victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and women and girls are the main victims of trafficking in human beings. Eradicating trafficking therefore necessitates policies developed within a women’s rights/ gender equality framework.

This assessment supports the EWL analysis of trafficking as a gendered phenomenon. The systematic implementation of a gender equality perspective in all actions, policies on trafficking at EU and national level should aim at the realisation of equality between women and men. The realisation of women’s human rights and equality between women and men should therefore be an objective within each of the ‘five Ps’ of the approach chosen by the Commission in the Strategy: protection and service provision, prevention, prosecution and partnership.

With this in mind, the EWL welcomes the actions of the EC which strengthen the fundamental rights of women and girls and incorporate a gender perspective, such as the proposal to develop with the Member States EU-wide guidance on gender-sensitive information campaigns. The EWL also supports prevention actions which aim at reducing demand for trafficking, and especially the demand for prostitution, which is the main cause of the perpetuation of sexual exploitation and fuels trafficking in women and girls.

The EWL hopes that the priority given to enhanced cooperation amongst key actors will provide concrete opportunities for women’s NGO to contribute to the implementation of the strategy, at all levels, including within the foreseen EU Platform of civil society organisations and service providers. Regarding identification and assistance to victims, the EWL is ready to share the outcomes of its work and projects on trafficking in women for sexual exploitation: the Nordic-Baltic project (2005-2008) developed concrete recommendations for identification and support standards from a strong gender perspective; several EWL members developed projects on quality services for victims of trafficking, training modules for officials from a gender perspective, actions to strengthen access to justice and compensation, etc.

Finally, the EWL would also like to remind the EC of the key role played by women’s organisations and service providers on the ground, which support and accompany women victims of trafficking on a daily basis; amongst the various funding opportunities offered by the EC, it is essential that targeted budget lines for projects supporting women and girls victims of prostitution and trafficking and addressing the root causes of trafficking for sexual exploitation are sustained. Such funding programmes should guarantee sustainable and substantial support, including for the 2014-2020 funding period, in order for the important goals of the EU strategy to be achieved.

Links:

* The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 27 EU Member States and three of the candidate countries, as well as to 21 European-wide organisations, representing a total of more than 2000 associations.

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Emergency Motions presented to and adopted by EWL General Assembly 2012

Budapest 12-13 May 2012

Posted on 29 May 2012

The EWL General Assembly on 13 May adopted three Emergency Motions.

EWL condemns detention of “Pussy Riot” activists by Russian authorities

The European Women’s Lobby condemns the detention of Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samucevich by the Russian authorities for allegedly performing a protest song in a cathedral as part of a feminist punk group ‘Pussy Riot’. The three young women have been charged with "hooliganism", have been remanded in jail, facing up to 7 years criminal punishment. The EWL calls on the Russian authorities to drop the charges of hooliganism and immediately and unconditionally release the detainees ensuring their protection and that of their families.

Political context : The protest song titled ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ was performed by several members of the ‘Pussy Riot’ group with their faces covered by balaclavas. The song calls on Virgin Mary to become a feminist and banish Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin. It also criticises the dedication and support shown to President-elect Vladimir Putin by some representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. The performance was part of wider protests against Putin and unfair elections in Russia.

Universalism and Olympics

On 25 July 2012 in conjunction with the opening of the London Olympics, a protest will be organised against the Olympics Committee’s failure to respect the principles of equality and neutrality. The presence of the Presidents/or Delegates from the LEF and from National Coordinations would be of major importance. The aim of the protest is to ask for a strict implementation of the Olympic Charter based on universal principles.

Political context: While in the United Nations "cultural relativism" is about to win the battle against universality of rights (*), we should try to save the concept of universal values in a very symbolic international area : the Olympic Stadium.

The fact that the Olympics take place in Europe and that the Olympic Charter is based on universal principles should be considered as a unique opportunity to express our opposition to cultural relativism as far as it challenges fundamental women’s rights.

(*)for instance, this year, for the first time, the 56th CSW was unable to reach consensual conclusions)

EWL calls for full implementation of Beijing Platform for Action and rejects any new conference that would re-open negotiations on agreed language

In light of the increasing world-wide attacks on women’s rights and gender equality, and after the failure of the 56th CSW session to reach agreed conclusions, the EWL must take a very strong stand towards EU institutions, EU member states and the UN to renew their commitments - without any reservations - to the full implementation of the Beijing PFA and other international agreements on gender equality and women’s human rights. Therefore we say no to any conference that would re-open negotiations on agreed language at this time and believe it is crucial to stop all attempts by members and observers reneging on earlier commitments to women’s rights.

Political context: Although we support all opportunities to push for progress, over the last ten years women’s rights have been more and more under attack by conservative movements on the basis of safeguarding "traditional values" at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedom of women. It resulted in the shameful absence of agreed conclusions at the 56th session of the CSW and in the Rio+20 draft outcome document numerous references to women’s rights have been deleted or bracketed by many different countries and the Vatican. Therefore we believe any re-opening of agreed language from the Beijing PFA or any international agreements on women’s human rights as it would be risky and regressive.

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Manifesto - Women’s Socio Economic Rights and Gender Equality from a life-cycle perspective (May 2012)

EWL Manifesto On occasion of the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations

Posted on 24 May 2012

Presented at the EWL Annual Conference, Budapest, 11 May 2012

We, members of the European Women’s Lobby, reaffirm that a sustainable future for the European Union and the world is possible only if all women, men, girls and boys are free to contribute equally to society regardless of where they are situated in the ‘circle of life’.

We affirm that gender relations strongly impact the entire life cycle from birth to old age, influencing access to resources and opportunities and shaping life strategies at every stage and that there cannot be wellbeing, growth or prosperity without gender equality.

We affirm that the many pressing challenges facing Europe demand long term and holistic consideration of people’s different needs across the life-cycle. Only from a life-cycle perspective can we generate truly sustainable solutions. The EWL therefore calls for a gendered life-cycle approach in all political and economic decisions shaping Europe’s future. A gendered life-cycle approach makes the links between how decisions taken at different stages of life impact on each other. Such an approach allows for the identification of the necessary political measures in various phases and at transitional points in women’s lives. An example of this are the links between the gender pay and pension gaps which disadvantage women throughout their lives as they earn less and subsequently have lower pensions.

We are concerned that economic policies are increasingly disconnected from the real lives of women and men in the EU. Many of the current austerity measures are not based on long term societal considerations but on short term budgetary restrictions due to private intervention (notably by rating agencies). Such policies are neither democratic nor sustainable for the present generation or for the future generations of women and men.

We recall that such non-sustainable solutions to the economic, social and demographic crisis hit women particularly hard as witnessed by a number of studies. We are outraged by the economic policies that are leading the world. We condemn the way in which the constant search for profit is destroying the planet and human beings. Human beings have lost their place in the hierarchy of values. It is urgent to remedy this and to stop this disastrous spiral.

We are concerned that women’s rights and gender equality are slipping off the political agenda and we oppose any backlash or loss of the freedoms, rights and opportunities generated by women and women-friendly societies in the past. The EU cannot afford it; the women of Europe will not accept it.

We demand that women’s rights and gender equality irrespective of age be placed at the heart of all policies and addressed at the highest political level . Gender inequalities are costly; equality between women and men must be considered as an investment.

We recall that women constitute more than half of the European population and will represent a growing majority as Europe ages. Over the past few decades, women have contributed more to the expansion of the world economy than either new technologies or the emerging markets of China and India combined .

We call for change in the way women are perceived in policy-making which characterises women as a ‘group’ and in particular a ‘vulnerable’ or discriminated ‘minority’ group. Women also represent the majority in many “minority groups” (older people, people with disability etc.). Women’s equal rights and participation in all areas of life must be secured to all women irrespective of their different age, circumstances and backgrounds.

We affirm that women’s economic independence throughout the life-cycle is a cornerstone in reaching gender equality. The independence of women and their fullest contribution to society can be achieved only if men and women work together to ensure equal access to paid and unpaid work, education and share burdens, responsibilities and power, benefits and freedoms equally throughout the life-cycle.

The European Women’s Lobby therefore makes the following recommendations:

Policy-makers should engage with women of all ages and backgrounds and their representative organisations in the design, implementation and evaluation of all policies and measures that seek to achieve women’s economic independence and active participation in all areas on an equal footing with men throughout their life-cycle.

Economic and Social policies

Ensure commitments related to equality between women and men in the EU 2020 Strategy and the goals set forth herein for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth: A dignified violence-free life for all, equal access to quality education opportunities, decent and equal wages and income. This should be mirrored in all of the processes of the EU2020 Strategy: The Annual Growth Survey, National Reform Programmes, National Stability and Convergence Programmes, Country-Specific Recommendations, Joint Employment Report, Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion and.

Adopt binding legislation for the equal representation of women and men in decision-making, including on corporate boards as proposed by European Commission Vice-president Reding. Work towards the equal representation of women and men in view of the elections for the European Parliament and nomination of the new European Commission in 2014 as well as in the subsequent allocations of EU ‘Top Jobs’. In line with the EU’s Treaty commitments to democracy and fundamental rights, parity in decision-making in all spheres and at all levels is an issue of democratic representation, legitimacy and of social progress at both EU and national levels. Account should also be taken of age, ethnicity and social origins.

Apply alternative economic models which are sustainable for the people and the planet. Such models should introduce new ways of valuing the ‘care economy’, the contributions of which have so far been disregarded in economic decision making. Care work, paid or unpaid, formal or informal must be reassessed and re-prioritised politically so that investments in the sector reflect the fundamental economic and social contributions this sector brings to society. The focus on the care economy is a prerequisite for the economy as a whole: women and men can contribute equally to society while raising future generations only when proper care infrastructures are in place. As the population ages, caring needs of the elderly and dependents are also rising. To ensure sustainability, care must therefore increasingly be addressed politically and economically as a common societal responsibility.

Care and employment policies

Place the care sector on an equal footing with other ‘job rich’ growth sectors of the economy, namely the ‘green economy’ and ‘ICT’ in the EU2020 Strategy. These sectors should seek to create a gender inclusive labour market which focuses on job creation policies.

Ensure fully paid maternity, paternity, parental, carer’s and educational leave for both women and men to avoid economic sanctions later in life, such as insufficient pensions (mostly affecting women), due to caring responsibilities. Governments must move forward in negotiating with the European Parliament on the revised Maternity Leave Directive. In particular they must ensure full pay for the entire duration of maternity and paternity leave and the full protection of women returning to work after childbirth. Finally, the issue of pay during maternity leave cannot be dissociated from the gender pay gap. Maternity leave should be promoted politically as one of the factors to closing the gender pay gap which women experience throughout their lives.

Guarantee women’s full participation on the labour-market regardless of their level of education and in particular young women. Women of child bearing age continue to be perceived as “risky” due to their potential child birth/child care and this, results in direct discrimination against women in accessing and remaining in the labour-market.

Guarantee women’s full access to life-long learning, regardless of their level of education, to enable women to acquire new skills to facilitate their upgrading in a changing work environment and/or reorientation towards professional careers.

Ensure quality employment policies for women of all ages, in particular women over 50, so that they are considered as a valued work force.

Ensure that equality between women and men is promoted through the flexicurity strategy applied in the current re-designing of the labour-market. “Security” can have different meanings for men and women in general and throughout different stages of life: Security as a prerequisite for free choices, security not to be discriminated against, security to find quality employment, security that dependents are being taken care of, security that someone takes care of you, security to have equal wages and pensions and take-home pay and decent adequate income in the periods out of the labour market. Make binding gender equality objectives and practical outcomes of flexicurity including: realising and strengthening the Barcelona childcare targets, going ‘beyond Barcelona’ towards increasing the provision, quality, affordability and accessibility of care services including quality care for the elderly.

Pay and pensions

We affirm that the gender pay and pension gaps are the two sides of the same coin. The gender pension gap mirrors gender inequalities accumulated throughout women’s lives, which increases women’s risk of poverty and social exclusion as they age.

We call for ‘zero tolerance’ of the gender pay gap and demand urgent measures to address all the elements that maintain women’s income at a lower level than men’s throughout their lives including a binding European target to reduce the gender pay gap by minimum 5 % per year in each Member State. This requires inter alia: valuing pay and working conditions and strengthening women’s bargaining power in sectors of the economy where women are the majority (primarily care, health, education, and retail, public and social services); addressing the highly gender segregated labour market, particularly in the green and ICT sectors and making the care sector attractive to men; guaranteeing transparency in the composition of wages.

We call for an EU gender pension gap indicator, as one of the means to track and address the gender impact of reforms in pension systems that are currently underway in most EU Member States.

Social Security and Taxation Policies

We deplore that women continue to be considered as ‘dependents’ or ‘second earners’ in taxation and social security systems and ask that such concepts should stop being used in policy documents.

Ensure individualisation of rights with regards to social security and taxation to establish a balance between women and men with regards to social security benefits and individual taxation.

Make closing the gender pay gap a macro-economic priority. This will have a positive impact on social security systems as women’s contribution to these systems will increase when women’s earnings raise and moreover make women less reliant on social benefits to cover shortfalls in income gained through paid work.

Redefine outdated concepts in relation to household composition and family models and provide gender disaggregated data and measures to address the feminisation of poverty throughout the life cycle. The nuclear family/male-breadwinner model is less and less dominant in European societies. This change requires a redefinition of women’s status within families and new ways of defining social security and taxation. This redefinition has significant implications for the way we measure poverty for instance: both ‘single parents’ and ‘cohabitants’ are at increased risk of poverty and women make up the majority of both groups. This insight requires a gendered breakdown of data which is not currently common practice.

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Download the Manifesto in pdf format in:

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EWL and partners call on EU Member States and European Commission to safeguard family life of migrants and refugees

Posted on 15 May 2012

EWL and partners call on EU Member States and European Commission to safeguard family life of migrants and refugees

[Brussels, 15 May 2010] Today, on the International Day of Families, we, the undersigned organisations, call on the European Commission and EU Member States to guarantee the effective right to family life and family reunification for all migrants and beneficiaries of international protection. It is in the interest of Member States to harmonize practices and legislation in the field of family reunification. We remind that Member States have the obligation to properly implement the EU Family Reunification Directive and to remove the many legal and practical obstacles to family reunion that exist today.

While all Member States could improve their family reunification practices, a growing number are infringing the Directive’s minimum standards. In 2008, the European Commission published a report acknowledging that Member States were not in compliance with several articles in the Directive. Since then however, no legal action has been undertaken. We call on the European Commission to update the evaluation done in 2008, and to start infringement procedures against the Member States that are not complying with the current EU rules. We also encourage the European Commission to establish an on-going mechanism to monitor Member States’ implementation of the Directive and its practical impact on migrant families. Based on the 2008 report, as well as our expertise in this field, we consider that infringement procedures against Member States could already be started, in particular in relation to non-transposition or incorrect transposition of the Directive with regards to visa facilitation, excessive requirements on fees for family reunification, proportionality of integration measures and additional material conditions, and evidence requirements in particular for beneficiaries of international protection.

In addition to these measures, we believe that interpretative guidelines could be a tool to help all Member States to correctly implement the law and adopt better practices to facilitate family reunification. Any action taken should involve relevant stakeholders such as civil society actors or the European Parliament. Family is vitally important in the lives of all people, including migrants. Family reunification, a fundamental human right under EU law, enables families to live in dignity and helps their integration in society. Various research projects have found positive effects of family reunification and negative effects of restrictive policies and extended periods of separation, both for migrants and for the societies they live in. We believe that the EU Family Reunification Directive provides the right objectives and minimum standards. The Member States are supposed to implement the right to family reunification by respecting human rights standards, including Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 7 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Member States must also respect key principles of law, such as proportionality, the best interest of the child and non-discrimination. This Directive also provides the opportunity for more favourable practices, which many Member States already apply. We believe that issues like forced marriages and marriages of convenience are better addressed through means other than family reunification legislation, such as sustained educational measures and counselling support for victims and access to an independent legal status. Restrictive family reunification policies and procedures can leave family members with few other options that entering the country irregularly or over-staying their visa. Their irregular migration status restricts their basic rights and opportunities for integration while opening them up to exploitation and abuse.

Our organisations and members are monitoring the transposition of the Directive and are confronted with shortcomings in our day-to-day work assisting migrants and beneficiaries of international protection. Our responses to the consultation on Family reunification identified a number of common issues that should be taken into account in this upcoming process.

We call on the EU Member States and the European Commission to address the following issues: Remove practical obstacles to family reunification, such as high fees, complicated documentation, and difficult access to visas and travel documents for family members, particularly for beneficiaries of international protection. In some cases, the fees for family reunification are 10 times higher than the cost of an identity card. Recent case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) confirms that such practices are discriminatory. Make the waiting periods and length of procedures as short as possible. The longer the waiting period or procedure, the more difficult family life becomes. When children are involved, the best interest of the child has to be given priority. Evaluate the proportionality and accessibility of integration measures for family reunification. Member states impose integration measures on family members that became in reality pre-entry conditions and additional requirement for family reunification. Indeed, most Member States do not impose any integration conditions. Only a few Member States do impose such integration conditions today, such as Austria, France, Germany, and especially The Netherlands. Make equality and proportionality guiding principles of any material or housing conditions. The income and housing conditions required by many Member States cannot become obstacles to family reunification. In some countries, reuniting families are expected to meet conditions that the average family in the country could not. We ask Member States not to require economic resources above the level of social assistance or minimal wage and to allow the inclusion of some social benefits in the calculation of these resources. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection must be entitled to the same favourable rules as refugees, in line with the practices in many EU Member States and the on-going EU legal harmonisation on asylum, most recently the Qualification Directive and Long-Term Residence Directive.

Clarify that the minimum age limit for spouses should be the age of majority and reassess how to fight forced marriages. Some Member States allow for family reunification of spouses depending on age limit higher than 18 years old, which are arbitrary or excessive age limits. We find higher age limits to be discriminatory, unjustified, and ineffective for promoting integration or fighting forced marriages. Most Member States impose majority as the age limit of reuniting couples. Clarify the definition of the family members and of the dependent relatives entitled to family reunification, based on proportionality and non-discrimination. Currently, only married couples and their minor unmarried children are entitled to family reunification under the Directive. Guidance should address how Member States can include other family members and define dependency based on an individual assessment of family life. Guarantee access to independent residence permit. Family members need to have access to an individual independent residence permit as early as possible, before the 5 years period, without any additional conditions. This more favourable access is already in place in a handful of Member States.

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EWL Priorities for the Danish Presidency of the European Union, January-June 2012

Posted on 16 December 2011

EWL Priorities for the Danish Presidency of the European Union, January-June 2012

[Brussels, November 2011] On 01 January 2012, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) will pass from Poland to Denmark. The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest association of women’s organisations in Europe with more than 2000 member organisations. The EWL calls on the Danish Presidency to be a driving force for women’s rights in Europe despite the current financial, economic and social crisis. Both at the European and the national level, we witness how the crisis is used to cut funding for women’s rights and gender equality-related activities and institutions and how these issues are losing visibility and focus. These cuts also threaten the very existence of women´s organisations. Women’s NGOs are needed for the development of quality democracy, growth and welfare. This trend not only risks jeopardising recent progress; it also risks creating serious backlashes regarding for example the support and prevention of violence against women, the promotion of women’s economic independence or fighting against negative gender stereotypes.

The EWL calls on the Danish Presidency to ensure that – in the context of the negotiations on the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 – adequate, predictable and sustainable funding is allocated to promoting equality between women and men. We also would like to see progress in the adoption of the gender-related legislation currently on the table and in the full integration of a women’s rights perspective in all European social and economic policies, including the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The EWL also expresses its expectation that the Danish Presidency will provide progressive and ambitious leadership to the Council of the European Union in its policy and legislative tasks, in relation to issues related to women’s human rights, in particular the fight against all forms of male violence against women and the guarantee of women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

The European Women’s Lobby calls on the Danish Presidency to:

1. Ensure continuous visibility, support and focus to women’s rights and gender equality issues. In particular, within the on-going negotiations on the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 and the sector-specific funding programmes, take steps to ensure there is no degradation in the level and predictability of EU funding for activities on women’s rights and gender equality, including combating violence against women, as related to both internal and external policies.

2. Take a leadership role in the Council negotiations aiming at reaching an agreement on the revision of the maternity leave Directive. This revision should include the increase of maternity leave provisions from 14 weeks to 20 weeks and the introduction of two weeks’ leave for new fathers, both fully paid, as provided for in the legislative Resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 20 October 2010.

3. Ensure the adoption of a comprehensive proposal for a European Strategy on eradicating all forms of male violence against women in the EU, as promised by the European Commission and demanded by the Council in March 2010, including the establishment of a European Year to end violence against women, and call on the European Commission and the Council to work on legal instruments as part of this Strategy for a Europe free from all forms of male violence against women (including prostitution and trafficking in women).

4. Ensure that all women benefit from the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular women from vulnerable groups who are at risk of discriminatory practices (forced sterilisation, sexual and genital mutilation, lack of access to safe abortion, lack of access to family planning, discrimination in the access to Assisted Reproductive Technologies, etc.), and guarantee sexual education and information for all young people in Europe.

5. Promote a progressive discussion on binding positive action measures as the most efficient way to reach the equal representation of women and men in political and economic decision-making. In particular, work towards consensus between the EU Member States on the necessity of binding EU-level legislation to reach gender balance on company boards and ensure an efficient follow-up of EC Vice-President Reding’s forthcoming proposal regarding EU action in this field.

6. Ensure that the promotion of equality between women and men, including the economic independence of women as an important condition for equality between women and men; quality employment for women and men; tackling the gender pay and pension gaps; social and health services; and sustainable social development, including the target to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty is at the core of the implementation, reporting and monitoring mechanisms of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

7. Take a leadership role in the Council negotiations in order to progress towards the adoption of the draft Directive on combating discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation building on the European Parliament Resolution and the proposals made by the EWL and anti-discrimination networks. In the context of the follow-up to the European Pact for gender equality, initiate debate on the ‘need to examine the causes of multiple discrimination and (to) explore effective ways of eliminating it.’

8. Ensure strong links between the European Union and its Member States and relevant processes that take place in international institutions, in particular the ratification by the EU and Member States of the Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women, more focus on the legally-binding CEDAW Convention and adequate support, including financial pledges to UN Women entity.

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