Equality: further away than we think
On March 8, we celebrated International Women's Day. In many countries, it is a holiday to commemorate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Although there have been many advances in the women's movement, there are still many barriers to gender equality. In particular, the wage gap and political representation are still major challenges.
Equality and women's rights successes in Europe.
In Europe, significant progress has been made on equality and women's rights in recent decades. A number of laws, including the Gender Equality Act, have been enacted in many European countries to combat gender discrimination and promote equal opportunities. Gender mainstreaming, the integration of a gender perspective into all other policies, and special measures to promote women have also been implemented.
A positive trend is the increasing number of women in the labor market and their progress in terms of education and training. In some countries, the majority of university graduates are female.
Challenges of equality and women's rights in Europe
Despite these successes, there are still challenges to equality and women's rights in Europe. Women are still overrepresented in lower-paid sectors and underrepresented in decision-making positions, leading to a gender pay gap. Gender-based violence against women and girls is also still widespread. Women earn on average 14.1% less than men in the European Union, and in some countries the pay gap is even larger.
Equality and women's rights goals in Europe
To address these challenges and make further progress on gender equality and women's rights in Europe, the EU launched the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 in 2020. The strategy aims to create a Union of equality where women and men, in all their diversity, are free to pursue their chosen path in life, have equal opportunities and participate equally in our European society.
The strategy includes various measures to promote gender equality in five key areas: Ending Gender-Based Violence, Challenging Gender Stereotypes, Closing Gender Gaps in the Labor Market, Achieving Equal Participation in Different Sectors of the Economy, Closing Gender Gaps in Pay and Pensions, and Closing the Gender Gap in Care and Achieving Gender Balance in Decision-Making and Policy.
The dangerous lives of many women
There are startling facts and figures about the brutal reality that women face in many countries. It is reported that one in three women worldwide experience violence during their lifetime. This is a shocking statistic that illustrates how deeply rooted the problem of violence against women is in our society.
In some countries, the situation is even worse. For example, it is reported that in India, one woman is raped every hour. This is an alarming fact that shows how dangerous it is for women to walk the streets alone or how difficult it is to be safe even in their own homes.
But it is not only in India that women are exposed to violence. In Afghanistan, the situation is particularly severe. There, women are not only frequent victims of sexual violence, but also of forced marriage and honor killings. This is a horrific reality that women in this country have to experience on a daily basis.
Women are also extremely vulnerable in other countries such as Congo and Nigeria. In Congo, for example, there are reports of rape as a weapon of war, where women are systematically raped to humiliate and dehumanize them. In this case, many no longer even think about education, since it is neglected or even banned anyway.
Equality in Switzerland
In recent decades, Switzerland has made considerable progress in the legal equality of men and women. As early as 1971, women were given the right to vote and stand for election at the national level, followed by the anchoring of equality in the Federal Constitution in 1981. Article 8 (3) calls for the legal and actual equality of men and women, particularly in the family, education and work.
Switzerland's accession to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1997 was also an important milestone. Other legal changes, such as the Equality Act of 1996, which prohibits discrimination in employment and promotes equal opportunities in working life, help to strengthen the legal equality of men and women in Switzerland.
Challenges to be met
Despite this progress, however, there is still a considerable need for action on the actual equality of men and women in Switzerland. Women are still underrepresented in many areas, including business, science, administration, politics and the public sphere, and occupy fewer influential positions than men. According to a study by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the gender pay gap in Switzerland is still 12.1% and there are still barriers for women to rise to leadership positions.
Another challenge to real equality is the unequal distribution of unpaid work in the household and family. Women still do most of this work, which limits their career opportunities and financial independence. The introduction of legislative measures to promote the reconciliation of family and work and to reduce the gender-specific division of labor would be an important step towards improving actual equality in Switzerland.
Another important event that fueled the discussion on real equality in Switzerland was the 2019 Women's Strike. On June 14 of that year, women across the country went on strike to draw attention to persistent inequalities and discrimination and to urge the government to implement measures for real equality.
Women's rights in Germany
Furthermore, let's take a closer look at the situation in Germany. Here, there is still some room for improvement when it comes to equal rights, especially in the workplace.
The wage gap between women and men is still a major problem. According to the State Office for Statistics in Lower Saxony, women earned 18% less than men in 2022. In Bremen, the wage gap was as high as 20 percent. The later in the year Equal Pay Day takes place, the greater the wage inequality. The day is symbolic of the wage gap.
It is important to close the wage gap to achieve equality between women and men. Women should be paid the same as men for the same work. The German Trade Union Confederation is also calling for better pay for jobs that are predominantly held by women, such as nursing and daycare centers. If women are paid fairly for their work, this can also help more women enter the labor market.
Another challenge to gender equality is political representation. Although women have the right to vote in many states, they are often underrepresented. In Lower Saxony, women are also significantly underrepresented in the current state parliament, with a share of around 36 percent.
It is important that women are represented in political decision-making processes. Women have different experiences and perspectives that they can bring to political decisions. When women are represented in politics, they can also ensure that political decisions take women's interests into account.
Equality and women's rights in Romania
In Romania, women have experienced significant progress in terms of their rights and equality in recent years. Nevertheless, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome in this country as well.
A significant step towards equality was the adoption of the Equality Law in 2020, which prohibits discrimination against women based on their gender in all areas of public life. The law also stipulates that women must hold at least 40% of positions in management and the civil service.
However, the figures show that there is still much work to be done. In Romania, women still earn on average 11% less than men, due to gender differences in labor market practices. In addition, unemployment is higher among women than men, and women are more likely to experience poverty than men.
Another problem is violence against women, especially domestic violence. According to a survey, almost 30% of women in Romania have experienced violence in their relationship. Fortunately, the government has taken measures to address this problem by enacting laws that improve the protection of victims of domestic violence and punish perpetrators.
Despite this progress, gender equality in Romania remains a challenge that must continue to be addressed. The government and society at large must continue to work to promote women's equality by ensuring that women have the same opportunities and choices as men in all aspects of life.
Gender equality is an important goal that still seems a long way off - reportedly as much as 132 years away. In particular, the wage gap and political representation are challenges that still need to be addressed. We must all work to ensure that women and men are equal and that women have the same opportunities as men.