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The Treaty of the European Union obliges Member States to promote equality between women and men.

Over the years, the principle of gender equality has been reinforced with legislation. In the 1990s, the policy of gender mainstreaming was introduced. This new strategy strived to include gender equality issues in all activities – in the “mainstream”. Gender mainstreaming calls for all EU policies to take into account the different situations of women and men.The EU has a structural approach to achieving gender equality. Its five-year plan – the Community Framework Strategy on Gender Equality (2001–2005) – covers equality in economic, social and civil life, equal participation and representation, and changing gender roles and stereotypes. A series of actors collaborate to deliver the objective of gender equality, including the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission. NGOs advise the Commission through the Advisory Committee.  

The European Commission is the main implementation body within the EU structure, and also the body that proposes new legislation. The Equal Opportunities Unit is based in the EU Commission Directorate General for Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs. It is responsible for ensuring compliance with the EU Directives on equal opportunities for women and men. This Unit is also charged with the implementation of the Community Framework Strategy on Gender Equality.Further information can be accessed via the following link: http://www.gender-equality.webinfo.lt/results/european_union.htm

In 2006, the European Commission produced a Roadmap for Equality Between Women and Men for the period 2006-2010.  It outlines 6 priority areas for EU action on gender equality, with objectives and actions: equal economic independence for women and men, reconciliation of private and professional life, equal representation in decision-making, eradication of all forms of gender-based violence, elimination of gender stereotypes, promotion of gender equality in external and development policies.

The Roadmap can be accessed here: http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=146&langId=en

European Women’s Lobby

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisations of women’s associations in the European Union (EU). The EWL Secretariat is based in Brussels, but EWL has member organisations  in 25 Member States of the EU and in 3 candidate countries.  The European Women’s Lobby aims at promoting women’s rights and equality between women and men in the European Union. EWL is active in different areas such as women’s economic and social position, women in decision-making, violence against women, women’s diversity etc.  EWL works mainly with the institutions of the European Union: the European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU Council of Ministers.

Council of Europe

Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.

Member States


The Council of Europe has a genuine pan-European dimension:

  • 47 member countries; and 
  • 1 applicant country: Belarus; Belarus ' special guest status has been suspended due to its lack of respect for human rights and democratic principles.
  • 5 observer countries: the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico.


  • to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law;
  • to promote awareness and encourage the development of Europe's cultural identity and diversity;
  • to find common solutions to the challenges facing European society: such as discrimination against minorities, xenophobia, intolerance, bioethics and cloning, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, organised crime and corruption, cybercrime, violence against children; and
  • to consolidate democratic stability in Europe by backing political, legislative and constitutional reform.

COE and Gender Equality

In the general perspective of the protection and promotion of human rights, the Council of Europe seeks to combat any interference with women's liberty and dignity (for example violence against women, trafficking in human beings), to eliminate discrimination based on sex and to promote a balanced representation of women and men in political and public life. Over the last thirty years, the legal status of women in Europe has undoubtedly improved, but effective equality is far from being a reality. Women are still marginalised in political and public life, paid less for work of equal value, find themselves victims of poverty and unemployment more often than men, and are more frequently subjected to violence. Further information can be accessed via the following link: http://www.coe.int/t/e/human_rights/equality/01._overview/_Summary.asp#TopOfPage  
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