Since its outset, and increasingly in recent years, the Council of Europe has contributed to furthering greater equality between women and men by raising awareness, setting standards and monitoring their implementation. International legal instruments such as the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the Convention on Preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) are universally recognised as milestones in their respective areas. Although non-binding, authoritative texts both from the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly have contributed to setting the agenda of gender equality, indicating ambitious goals that many actors are working hard to achieve.
In spite of the progress in these and other areas, much remains to be done to achieve gender equality, including in areas such as economic empowerment and political representation. Ingrained prejudice and discrimination still hinder women’s opportunities and the long-standing power imbalance between women and men has not been eradicated. In fact, women’s rights are facing a backlash, particularly in areas such as sexual and reproductive health, while opposition is voiced against the Istanbul Convention.
2019 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe. It is time for the Assembly to take stock of the progress to which the Organisation has contributed so far in the area of gender equality, and to make proposals to the Committee of Ministers for a new, ambitious and visionary agenda and timeline, to make it clear that the Council of Europe stands firm for equal opportunities and equal rights for women and men.