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Promoting the most favourable gender equality laws in Europe

Resolution 1780 (2010)

Parliamentary Assembly
Text adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 12 November 2010 (see Doc. 12427, report of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, rapporteur: Mrs Circene). See also Recommendation 1949 (2010).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly considers that equality between women and men is an essential precondition of all democratic societies. However, despite the progress achieved in Europe in this area, women’s rights vary considerably between member states. Moreover, with the current economic crisis there is a danger of a backlash leading to a reduction in women’s rights.
2. The Assembly is convinced that women should be entitled to greater rights to safeguard their personal dignity, integrity and autonomy and that the exercise of these fundamental rights should not differ according to their place of residence. Currently, however, women not only suffer from gender-based inequalities within their countries but are also subject to “territorial” discrimination.
3. The political will, in particular the one expressed by national parliaments, is fundamental to actively promoting equality between women and men, adopting and then implementing progressive legislation that guarantees, de jure and de facto, women’s fundamental rights and strengthens their autonomy.
4. The Assembly therefore welcomes the decision of the French voluntary association “Choisir la cause des femmes” (“Choose the women’s cause”) to encourage a “most favoured European woman clause”, which would entitle all women living in the European Union to benefit from whichever provisions of member states’ legislation were most favourable to them.
5. Considering that one of the Council of Europe’s goals is to establish a common legal area, based on respect for human rights, the Assembly wishes to support this initiative and extend it to all the Council of Europe member states, with a view to promoting a high level of fundamental rights, including equality between women and men.
6. In particular, drawing on the “most favoured European woman clause”, the Assembly intends to encourage the adoption of a “legislative bouquet to foster equality between women and men” in five priority areas, namely combating violence against women in Europe; combating trafficking in human beings; women’s participation in political and public life and combating sexist stereotypes; reproductive health (including sexual and reproductive rights); and women and economic life.
7. The Assembly invites the national parliaments of the Council of Europe member states to:
7.1 draw inspiration from the most progressive laws on equality between women and men in Europe to enact legislation that is the most favourable to women;
7.2 support the “most favoured European woman clause” initiative;
7.3 include in their work priorities and their political agendas the areas identified as priorities in this resolution;
7.4 draw inspiration from the most progressive laws identified in Europe in the priority areas, and in particular:
7.4.1 the Spanish and Austrian laws on violence against women;
7.4.2 the Swedish, British, Belgian and Bulgarian laws on trafficking in human beings;
7.4.3 the Belgian and Portuguese laws on women’s participation in political and public life;
7.4.4 the Dutch, Danish, Swedish and British laws on reproductive health, including sexual and reproductive rights;
7.4.5 the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish laws on parental leave, in so far as they affect women and economic life;
7.5 use International Women’s Day (8 March) as an opportunity to promote the “bouquet of the most advanced legislations on equality between women and men”, particularly by holding parliamentary hearings and exchanges of experiences, and assessing the progress of women’s rights in their own country.
8. The Assembly decides to prepare a handbook for parliamentarians on the promotion of equality between women and men, which would make it possible to identify the strategies required within parliaments and good legislative practices for promoting the “legislative bouquet” identified in the present resolution.
9. The Assembly intends to promote the “bouquet of the most advanced legislation on equality between women and men” in its relations with other parliamentary assemblies and international organisations.