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Gender equality: defending acquis and making further progress through strong political commitment

“Since its creation 70 years ago, the Council of Europe – including its Parliamentary Assembly – has been instrumental in promoting equality between women and men and combating discrimination on grounds of sex”, the Equality Committee said, citing major binding treaties that have triggered progress in member States, in particular the Istanbul Convention and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

In addition, “several non-binding texts have contributed to promoting gender equality in areas such as economic empowerment, political representation, the rights of migrant women, gender mainstreaming in sport, and the rights of women with disabilities”, the committee added, adopting the report by Elvira Kovács (Serbia, EPP/CD) in Belgrade.

However, parliamentarians expressed concern about a backlash against women's rights in several member States, noting that certain government forces and non-State actors were targeting long-acquired rights. “This calls for heightened vigilance in defending gender equality, and strong political commitment and leadership to secure further advances,” they said.

In order to achieve effective equality and to empower women and men, the committee proposed a set of measures as regards gender stereotypes and sexism, violence against women and domestic violence, women’s political representation, their economic empowerment, access to justice, sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as the rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls, stressing that it was essential to involve men in the implementation of these measures.

The committee also expressed its support for the Council of Europe's Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023 and its six priority areas, which “will require concerted efforts by all players within the Organisation and in member States, as well as external partners including the private sector and media”.

Finally, the committee recommended that the Committee of Ministers encourage gender mainstreaming in all Council of Europe policies and activities and support the Organisation’s contribution to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular within the framework of Goal No. 5.