12 January 1994

Doc. 6990

1403-10/1/94-1-E

OPINION

on equality between men and women

Rapporteur: Mrs HALONEN,

Finland, Socialist Group


Participation by women and men in politics

      The Council of Europe and more particularly the Parliamentary Assembly regard pluralist democracy as the fundamental requirement for membership of this family, as the bond which must unite all states wishing to belong to it.

      Can pluralist democracy be considered genuine when it makes "man the sole judge, whereas woman shares with him the gift of reason"1 ? That remark, made at a time when feminists were demanding the right to vote and stand for election is still valid in practice today in many countries — witness the figures quoted by Mrs Err in her report! It also applies to our Assembly, which numbers only fifty-nine women elected parliamentarians out of a total of 468 members and substitutes.

      Surely genuine pluralist democracy should allow women to exercise political responsibilities to the same extent as men and be equally involved in the decision-making process. Women's right to mount the rostrum2 is now recognised, but few are anxious to help them climb the steps!

      For the past few years the Council of Europe has therefore sought to promote the concept of "parity democracy" [equal representation]. This is not a new concept. It emphasises the dual nature of the human race. It calls for a parity threshold, a minimum level of representation (set at no less than 40%) of both sexes, especially in policy-making bodies. Council of Europe bodies should not disregard this concern, particularly the Parliamentary Assembly and the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.

      The Assembly should endorse these efforts and therefore place greater emphasis in the text presented by Mrs Err on this concept of parity democracy and on the advisability of introducing a parity threshold. An understanding of genuine democracy and of the rules under which it operates should be instilled at school.

      The draft recommendation and draft resolution should accordingly be amended as follows:

Paragraph 6 of the draft recommendation

6.       "It is convinced that greater participation by women in all levels of political life — based on the principle of "parity democracy" [equal representation] — would enable..."

Paragraph 1.f of the draft resolution

1.       f.       "to ensure that efforts are made to foster equality in schools, for example by removing ... and introduce into school curricula an initiation in human rights, including the male/female equality aspect, and in "parity democracy", stressing the need for balanced participation by women and men in political life;"

Participation by men and women in working life

      Mrs Err devotes paragraph 1.h of her draft resolution to this question and rightly addresses the main difficulty, which is how to combine working life and family life. Recommendation 1146 (1991) on equal opportunities and equal treatment for women and men on labour market3 has to be kept in mind as well as European standards as recognised in the Social Charter of the Council of Europe and its additional Protocol.

      Equality for women in working life also hinges on their financial independence and on their receiving the same pay as men for work of equal value.In Europe the average gap between men's and women's wages is still 40%. There is still great reluctance to compare and assess jobs fairly.

      Article 4 paragraph 3 of the European Social Charter, which establishes the right of women and men to equal pay for work of equal value, not only has not been accepted by all the Contracting Parties, but is not applied as the supervisory organs expected. Moreover four member states4 only have accepted Article 1 of the additional Protocol on "equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation without discrimination on the grounds of sex "!

      The draft resolution should accordingly be amended by adding in paragraph 1.h a new first indent:

Paragraph 1.h of the draft resolution, new indent:

      "by ensuring that the European social standards and in particular the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, as enshrined in the European Social Charter and its additional Protocol are equally recognised and effectively applied in respect of women and men on the labour market".

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      Reporting committee: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Doc. 6985).

      Committee for opinion: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee.

      Reference to committee: Doc. 6178, Reference No. 1661 of 21 March 1990.

      Opinion approved by the committee on 15 December 1993.

      Secretaries to the committee: Mr Hartland and Ms Meunier.


1 1Mary Wollstonecraft, "Vindication of the Rights of Women".

2 2Article 10 of the famous Declaration of the Rights of Woman by Olympe de Gouges: "Women have the right to mount the scaffold, they should have the right to mount the rostrum".

3 1Adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 11 March 1991 (Doc. 6251 report of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, Rapporteur: Mrs Hubinek).

4 1       Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden