C Explanatory memorandum by Ms Keleş,
rapporteur for opinion
1 The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and
Men has considered with interest the report of the Social, Health
and Family Affairs Committee and congratulates its rapporteur, Mr
Bernard Marquet (Monaco, ALDE), for his work.
2 As is mentioned in the report, social, civil and political
rights are indivisible and interrelated and they should be handled
together. The Council of Europe is based on three pillars, namely
democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Therefore, the Parliamentary
Assembly should play a more important and effective role in the
implementation of social rights, as these are strictly related to
the three main principles that the Council of Europe promotes.
3 The report rightly refers to the importance of social rights
during the economic crisis and globalisation. But there is no reference
to the special position of women in this context. Women suffer more
during an economic crisis as they are the first to lose their jobs.
They also suffer more than men in globalisation because it makes
rich countries richer and poor countries poorer. It also increases
the difference between the high and the low income groups in the
same country. This means that women in both developed and developing countries
suffer more than men. Therefore, when we talk of social rights and
especially when we talk of social rights during crises and globalisation,
we should also highlight the special position of women.
4 The European Social Charter (ETS No. 35) includes several
gender-related provisions, such as the right of men and women workers
to equal pay for work of equal value (Article 4, paragraph 3), the
right of employed women to protection in relation to childbirth,
such as paid leave, social security benefits, protection against dismissal
and against unsuitable working conditions (Article 8) and the right
of mothers and children to social and economic protection (Article
5 The revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163), which expands
the scope of the European Social Charter by introducing new rights
covering major current social issues, also sets out women’s right
to the protection of maternity (Article 8), the right to equal opportunities
and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation without
discrimination on the grounds of sex (Article 20), and the right
to equality of opportunity and treatment for men and women workers
with family responsibilities and between such workers and other workers
6 In addition, Article 16 (common to both conventions) on the
right of the family to social, legal and economic protection, concerning
social and family benefits, fiscal arrangements, provision of family
housing, benefits for the newly married and other means, although
formulated in a neutral way, is also of great relevance for women.
7 It is very important for women to have equality with men;
but it is also very important for them to have equality in education,
professional life and political life, both with regard to democracy
and to human rights.
8 There are problems in the implementation of social rights,
in accessing the prescribed collective complaint procedures, in
making monitoring machinery more democratic and in making states
accept further provisions of the Charter.
9 The 1995 Additional Protocol to the Charter provides a system
of collective complaints. Several types of organisation can lodge
complaints with the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR),
the body which is responsible for monitoring compliance by the states
parties to the Charter.
Since 1998, when the Additional Protocol came into force,
62 collective complaints have been lodged. Amongst the organisations
which have filed complaints are national trade unions, European
federations of trade unions and organisations defending the rights
of the Roma. No NGO working for the defence and promotion of women’s
rights in Europe has lodged a collective complaint so far, even
if the list of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs)
entitled to submit collective complaints currently comprises several of
them, such as the International Alliance of Women (IAW);Note
Association of Women of Southern Europe (AFEM); and Zonta International
(a global organisation of executives and professionals working to
advance the status of women worldwide through assistance and advocacy).Note
11 More efforts should be made to inform organisations working
for the defence and promotion of women’s rights about the system
of collective complaints established by the Social Charter and on
how to register as an INGO entitled to lodge a collective complaint.
12 The Assembly should hold regular debates on social rights,
on the model of the annual debates on the state of human rights
and democracy in Europe. In the framework of such debates, legal
and political issues arising from the implementation – or lack of
implementation – of the Charter provisions should be discussed.
13 Enhancing the Assembly’s role in the monitoring system is
a very important provision of the draft resolution (paragraph 4.3).
So is paragraph 5.2, which foresees the political monitoring of
the implementation of the Social Charter and of the social rights
in close collaboration with other related international and European organisations.
14 The Social Charter’s monitoring machinery must be further
strengthened and the Social Charter should be a reference for member
countries of the Council of Europe, which should accept the importance
of the implementation of the provisions of the Social Charter with
regard to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The ratification
of the Social Charter, the related Protocols and the implementation
of its provisions is also important for the election of nine out
of 15 members of the ECSR. The Assembly should take into account gender
equality as well as the criteria of integrity and competence in
social questions when it appoints those members.