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.

International Women’s Day 2017 International Women’s Day 2017
Council of Europe Strasbourg 8 March 2017
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Fighting violence against women is not about “gender ideology” or breaking families

In a statement published today, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) expresses concern about misconceptions surrounding the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

As noted in the statement: International Women’s Day reminds us of the importance of the convention as the most comprehensive set of legally-binding standards to ensure every woman’s right to a life free from violence.

At issue is criticism that the convention promotes a nefarious “gender ideology” or that it attacks the notion of family.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is gender-based violence that destroys family. And there is no ideology in the fact that the vast majority of victims of sexual violence are women and girls.

Stalking, sexual harassment, sexual violence (including rape), physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of intimate partners, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced sterilisation are traumatising acts of violence, and our convention works to uphold the basic human right of living without such violence.

“Our convention should be a top priority for all because violence against women breaches basic human rights,” Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland stresses.

The Istanbul Convention (so known, because it was opened for signature there) works because it is so broad in scope. It requires, for example, funding for rape crisis centres, 24/7 helplines, domestic violence shelters, and counselling for domestic abuse victims. It ensures education on healthy relationships in schools. It requires strong prosecution tools against perpetrators, as conviction rates for rape, for example, are often far lower than for other crimes.

With already 22 ratifications, the Istanbul Convention is the first international treaty to define violence against women as a form of discrimination – and to address it as a phenomenon which women are exposed to for the simple reason that they are women.

Today is international women’s day. But every day, both men and women must work towards ending gender-based violence. 

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Did you know that... Did you know that...

... International Women's Day is a public holiday in several European countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Armenia?