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President calls for ‘a new momentum’ for achieving gender equality, cites good practice

Achieving genuine gender equality in practice is “both necessary and possible” and is a matter of political will, PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier has told a conference in Tallinn, pointing to numerous examples from around Europe of laws and regulations which promote genuine equality.

The President, addressing a conference on “women’s economic independence is a human right” in the Estonian capital, pointed out that economic development would increase substantially if women and men could contribute to it on an equal basis: “Why should a country miss the opportunity to increase its wealth because of stereotyped gender roles and outdated cultural barriers?”.

She pointed to the situation in Iceland, where new laws require transparency over pay inequality, backed by a form of labelling system, which helps to promote “a gender equality mindset” among employers and employees.

In the UK and Germany, companies are required to publish their salary scales, leading to “naming and shaming” of firms with large gender pay gaps, while in Norway quotas ensure that both sexes are adequately represented on the management boards of large companies. Meanwhile, Finland offers free care to every child under seven and Sweden offers incentives to fathers to take up their share of child-rearing.

Changing cultural norms to favour women’s contributions to science, history and the arts would also have a major impact, the President pointed out, hailing innovative schemes to open career doors to women in science and technology and to promote women engineers, technicians and astronauts as role models.

PACE, with a recent resolution on the topic of “empowering women in the economy”, was at the forefront of pressing for change across Europe, the President pointed out, and was an ideal forum for legislators to share good practice.

Finally, the President pointed to the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention – to combat violence against women and domestic violence – as an “eye-opener” to how gender-based discrimination could lead to gender-based violence: “For the first time, an international treaty has told women that domestic violence cannot be considered a private matter, which they have to endure as a fact of life.”

She concluded: “The time has come to find a new political momentum in support of gender equality as a fundamental human right and as a guiding principle of our political action […]. I would like to ask you to join us, join me, in giving strength to a new momentum, to a new wave.”