Today, March 8th, 2018, is International Women’s Day. This year, International Women’s Day is part of an unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality, and justice. Sexual harassment, violence, and discrimination against women have been on the front page of the media and have generated a lot of public debate enhanced a strong commitment to change. People are mobilising for a more equitable future around the world. This mobilisation took the form of global marches and campaigns, including the #MeToo campaign in the United States of America, #BalanceTonPorc in France and equivalent actions in other countries, protesting against sexual harassment and violence. The EU defined gender equality as a core principle and enshrined it in article 8 of TFEU as: « In all its activities, the Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women. ». However, is the situation of women in Europe as « not that bad » as pretended?
Last February 23rd, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality published a report on gender equality in the media sector in the EU. It listed a lot of inequalities still remaining in the media but lasting in every field and sectors. For example, the gender pay and pension gaps are a persistent problem in the EU and are evident in different economic sectors, including the media, where the gender pay gap is of 17 %. The Committee particularly stresses the role of the media as an agent of social change and its influence in the shaping of public opinion and calls on the Member States to promote content on gender equality in public media.
Today, still, abortion is banned in Poland except when a woman’s life or health is endangered by the continuation of pregnancy, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, or when the foetus is seriously malformed. In Denmark, 70% of reported rapes do not result in a conviction. Only 11 out of the 28 EU Member States launched campaigns for the prevention of sexual violence since 2011 and victim-blaming in cases of sexual violence or rape is still the norm in Europe. However, one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15; 50 women die every week from male domestic violence; every second a woman faces sexual harassment, 75% of women in top management positions have already experienced sexual harassment at work; 1 in 4 women experiences physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy.
Yet, the situation is worse outside Europe as more than one billion women worldwide are not protected by law if they come to experience sexual violence in their homes. The pay gap between men and women is 23% worldwide. It can reach up to 40% in rural areas, and the unpaid work that many women do is not recognised. On average, women occupy less than a quarter of the seats in national parliaments and even fewer on the boards. If we do not act together, millions of girls will undergo genital mutilation in the next decade.
Nevertheless, hope for a better future is possible. It is an ongoing battle that should be fought by women and men side by side. The struggle of domestic violence is not natural but structural, which means that it can be terminated. It is the same with sexual harassment either in the street or at work. Fighting for Women’s Rights is not a question of privileging women over men. Gender equality is not only a matter of respect for fundamental rights but a progress for all of us.
For further information:
UN Website: https://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/
EP Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Report on gender equality in the media sector in the EU (2017/2210(INI)): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A8-2018-0031&format=XML&language=EN#title5
European Women’s lobby website : https://www.womenlobby.org/-Violence-against-Women-451-?lang=en