Over the years, the Council of Europe's activities to promote the cause of women have taken a number of forms, such as legal measures, mobilising public opinion and training and research.

One of the main threads running through all these activities is the principle that there can be no lasting solution to the social, economic and political problems of society unless women are fully involved in the process.

Women's status, real equality, emancipation, sexually-related violence, the problem of women and disability and human trafficking are just some of the other aspects around which the Council of Europe has developed activities, such as awareness campaigns, all of which are intended to bolster legal equality of the sexes and make it a reality.

In 2009, women made up on average 28.6% of government ministers in Europe and 21.7% of members of parliament. This is slight progress compared with the 19.9% of women ministers in 2005, but there has been no change in their representation in national parliaments. Besides, the figures remain well below the 40% minimum recommended by the Council of Europe.

2015 Edition - Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General: "Violence against women won’t stop until we eliminate gender inequality"

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Deputy Secretary General Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni made the following statement to mark International Women's Day:

“Across the world, International Women's Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater gender equality. We are encouraged to see some positive developments such as more laws criminalising domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. Or the fact that more countries are ratifying the Council of Europe’s award-winning and standard setting treaty the Istanbul Convention – 16 to date – to counter such violence.

And yet gender stereotypes and overtly sexualised images of women continue to feed into violence against women. A widespread sexualisation of women’s bodies contributes to treating women as subordinate members of society, and such stereotyping negatively affects how women are treated and perceived by institutions and society alike.

As we celebrate the 8th of March, the Council of Europe and the Belgian authorities are co-organising a panel on “Gender stereotypes and sexism – Root causes of discrimination and violence against women” at the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York on 9 March. This event highlights our work in combating gender stereotypes and sexism, and presents important Council of Europe standards in that regard, including the Istanbul Convention, Committee of Ministers’ Recommendations on gender equality and media and gender mainstreaming in education, and good practices from member states.

Abolishing negative gender stereotypes and sexism is essential to achieving gender equality. Gender inequality is also the root cause of violence against women. We call on men to speak out on 8th March, to play their part in promoting gender equality and ending violence against women. Let’s abolish gender hierarchies, violence and discrimination against women - and let’s ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention without delay”.


Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention)

Opened for signature in May 2011, the Istanbul Convention is the first legally binding instrument in Europe to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. In terms of scope, it is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights. Preventing violence, protecting its victims and prosecuting the perpetrators are the cornerstones of the Convention, as is the requirement to co-ordinate any such measures through comprehensive and integrated policies. The Convention covers victims from any background, regardless of their age, race, religion, social origin, migrant status or sexual orientation.

The Istanbul Convention was drafted in Europe, but is not meant for Europe only. Any state can accede to it or use it as a model for national and regional legislation and policies. The Istanbul Convention will enter into force following its ratification by 10 countries. An independent group of experts (GREVIO) will monitor the implementation of the Convention.


Thorbjørn Jagland: Women's role in society is "strongest transformative force" in the world today

On the occasion of International Women's Day, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland paid tribute to the increasing role that women are playing in societies worldwide. From politics to business and their role in achieving peace, he described women's role in society as the "strongest transformative force in the world today." The Secretary General, however, warned that women "still earn less, decide less and they are more often than men victims of violence". Jagland called upon governments to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and to promote gender equality.


‘The promise to end violence against women is a commitment which must be honoured', says PACE President, Jean-Claude Mignon

"8 March is an auspicious annual occasion for all those involved in promoting women's rights. This year the event will have the theme of ‘A Promise is a Promise: Time to Act to End Violence against Women'.

The Council of Europe has a major instrument at its disposal, namely the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention. This is the first binding text combining all the necessary ingredients: preventing violence, protecting victims, prosecuting those responsible and implementing integrated policies.

The promise to end violence against women is a commitment which must be honoured. The Istanbul Convention provides states with the means of doing so. On 8 March I shall be appealing to Council of Europe member and non-member states, if they have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention.

Ending violence against women is the main theme of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women from 4 to 15 March 2013 in New York. I shall be representing the Assembly Parliamentary of the Council of Europe at this meeting, alongside a host of other members. It will be an opportunity to reiterate this appeal to all states.”


Women's participation at all levels of public life is a democratic requirement, says Congress President Herwig van Staa

"We must promote and implement gender equality at all levels of public life so as to ensure genuine democracy," said Herwig van Staa, President of the Congress, on the occasion of International Women's Day on 8 March 2013. "This requirement has been enshrined in the Congress Charter, which provides that women must make up at least 30% of all national delegations – and many delegations now actually go much further than that, thereby confirming our belief that it is vital to have a legal framework which ensures women's participation", he continued, before referring to the resolution and recommendation entitled "Achieving sustainable gender equality in local and regional political life", in which the Congress encourages women to become candidates and stand in elections.


Deputy Secretary General addresses UN Commission on Status of Women in New York

On 4 March, Deputy Secretary General Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women, to promote the Istanbul Convention as an efficient and practical tool for governments to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention was drafted in Europe, but is not meant for Europe only. Any state can accede to it or use it as a model for national and regional legislation and policies. High-level bilateral meetings are also on the agenda of her two-day visit to New York.

A side event on the Convention’s added value will be organised by the Council of Europe and the French Permanent mission to the UN, with the participation of: Gilbert Saboya Sunyé, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women’s Rights and Government Spokesperson of France, and Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.


Council of Europe and the French Permanent mission to the UN organise a side event "Violence against Women: our concern, our response"