Towards Gender Equality, Greater Inclusion and Representation

As the European elections are approaching, the focus on gender equality and on the ongoing unequal representation of historically underrepresented groups remains a pressing concern. Over recent years, the European Union (EU) has made significant strides in addressing these challenges through a series of legislative and policy initiatives. In February 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to evaluate the progress made in women’s rights over the past 25 years. This resolution highlighted the numerous challenges that persist and expressed concern over the backlash in some Member States, which threatens to deprioritise gender equality on national agendas.

Furthering its commitment to gender equality, in April 2024, the Parliament urged the Council to enshrine sexual and reproductive healthcare and the right to a safe and legal abortion in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This call was preceded by the EU Gender Action Plan III, adopted in March 2022, whose ambition is to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights both within and outside the EU, ensuring universal access across Member States. April 2024 also marked the adoption of the first-ever EU rules on combating violence against women. These regulations aim to prevent gender-based violence and protect victims, with a special focus on women and those affected by domestic violence. Another milestone achievement is the directive on gender balance in corporate boards, which seeks to improve gender balance in corporate decision-making positions in the EU largest listed companies.

Despite these advancements, recent events underscore the imperative need for continued efforts and a focus on equality for all. A report conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2021 showed that more than one in four Europeans were victims of harassment and 22 million were physically attacked in one year. Europe also still has a long way to go, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality’s Gender Equality Index, in areas such as work and power. Additionally, in March 2024, a report revealed that over 550 EU Parliament staffers have faced harassment at work, highlighting ongoing issues within the very institutions championing equality. This alarming statistic demonstrates that even within the EU’s own structures, there remains significant work to be done to ensure a safe and equitable environment for all.

Moreover, the upcoming elections highlight the growing rise of the far-right and anti-gender movements across Europe. These groups often challenge the progress made towards gender equality and further protection of minority rights, threatening regression in the protection and advancements achieved. As voters prepare to head to the polls, the potential influence of far-right, anti-gender ideologies on the EU institutions could significantly impact the trajectory of gender and underrepresented groups’ rights.

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 European Movement International’s Position 

The European Movement International recognises the significant progress the EU has made towards gender equality and the protection of underrepresented groups’ rights. However, the path to true equality remains fraught with challenges that necessitate ongoing, robust action. As we argue in our latest policy position “Towards Gender Equality, Greater Inclusion and Representation”, the EU’s commitment to gender equality must be strengthened through comprehensive legislative measures against hate speech, discrimination, and gender-based violence, including rape and femicide. A cornerstone of this commitment is the full ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention by all Member States.

The European Parliament’s recent proposals to amend the Treaties, which advocate for gender equality throughout the text, are a much-needed change from the current Treaties which make no reference to gender or gender equality at any point. These changes must now be considered by the European Council, which should take all steps necessary to enact them, not least by convening a Convention as soon as possible in accordance with the EU’s ordinary revision procedure. At the same time, the EU must tackle gender blindness more rigorously by accounting for intersectional- and gender-specific repercussions and working to dismantle persisting gender inequalities when designing and implementing future policies. Reforms within the European Parliament concerning codes of conduct, data collection, and transparency regarding gender issues are also urgently needed, especially in light of the recent scandals that shook the institution.

With the projected increase in far-right representation post-2024 elections, fostering alliances for gender equality is more critical than ever. Building robust coalitions across civil society organisations, activists, the private sector, public officials, and elected politicians is essential. These alliances should be consolidated to ensure readiness to advocate for gender equality from the start of the new legislative term. Such preparedness is crucial for overcoming ideological divisions and presenting a united front for gender equality.



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