EWL News

EWL takes part to Equinet seminar addressing gender equality in access to goods and services

[Brussels, 30 April 2014] On 24 April, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) took part ot the seminar organised by Equinet, the European Network of Equality Bodies, on gender equality in access to goods and services. The seminar’s objectives were to gather equality bodies, national and European stakeholders and experts, for an open and constructive dialogue on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services (directive 2004/113/EC).

The seminar was hosted by Ms Jane Morrice, Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee, who recalled that the principle of equality between women and men was enshrined in the EU Treaty since 1957. Evelyn Collins, Chair of the Equinet Executive Board, highlighted that the seminar comes very timely as the European Commission is currently consulting a series of stakeholders on the implementation of the directive 2004/113/EC.

EWL Acting Coordinator Pierrette Pape was invited to the panel dedicated to the experiences of NGOs, together with Richard Köhler from Transgender Europe (TGEU). Both the EWL and TGEU highlighted the importance of the directive, and though its lack of visibility and the lack of awareness about its legally-binding principles, leading to an important underreporting phenomena about cases of discrimination in the access to goods and services. They stressed the positive role of equality bodies in supporting persons facing discrimination, analysing gaps in legislation and raising awareness of the directive.

The EWL had worked substantially on the directive in 2009, when the European Commission was conducting a first consultation. Together with AGE and Test Achats, the EWL was raising awareness on the discrimination faced by women in access to insurances, which were entitled to a derogation to the equality principle in the directive. In 2011, the exception clause in the directive was considered illegal by the European Court of Justice, a situation that the EWL welcomed strongly in its joint press release with AGE "ECJ ruling against sex discrimination in insurances key victory for women’s rights".

Since then, cases of inequality persist due to pervasive stereotypes about women’s and men’s roles which are still persistent in the access to goods and services. Pierrette Pape also pointed out to the lack of protection against discrimination in the areas of education and media, which are excluded from the scope of the directive, and the area of social protection and social advantages, as ’goods and services’ are not clearly defined. She gave examples of persisting discrimination faced by pregnant women, migrant women or entrepreneurs women, as the European Parliament resolution of 2013 shows.

The seminar comprised also very interesting presentations of academics and experts; on insurance services and gender equality; on media, education and advertisement and gender equality. You can find all presentations and resources on Equinet webpage dedicated to the event. Several videos produced by equality bodies were screened, in order to show the dynamism and work of Equinet members in terms of raising awareness towards gender equality. you can for example watch here the video of the Danish Institute for Human Rights on gender stereotypes.

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