At a glance

Gender Equality Strategy

Strategic Objectives

Gender Equality Programme



About equality between women and men

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.

European Convention on Human Rights

The Council of Europe has taken steps at different levels in order to promote equality between women and men. While the European Convention on Human Rights does not include equality between women and men as a general principle, it does, under Article 14, prohibit any "distinction" based, inter alia, on grounds of sex, in relation to the rights protected under the Convention. Furthermore, the principle of equality between spouses with regard to their rights and responsibilities in marriage has been added to the Convention in Protocol No. 7.

After several years of preparation, a new protocol was signed in Rome in November 2000, broadening the field of application of Article 14. Protocol No. 12, once in force, will provide that no-one can be discriminated against by any public authority on any ground.

European Social Charter

The European Social Charter provides a number of specific rights for women, namely equal remuneration, protection of mothers and working women and the social and economic protection of women and children. The Additional Protocol of 1988 included the right to equal opportunities and treatment with regard to employment and careers, without discrimination based on sex. Furthermore, the revised Social Charter contains a specific non-discrimination clause on a variety of grounds, one of which is sex.

Steering Committee for Equality

Apart from these legal instruments the Council of Europe is committed to a whole range of other measures and activities to promote equality between women and men. These are carried out under the authority of the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG).

The main activities of the CDEG concern:

  • action against trafficking in human beings
  • combating violence against women
  • gender mainstreaming
  • equality and democracy: women in politics and decision-making
  • equality: a common issue for women and men

Declarations on Gender Equality

  • CM Declaration(1988)  Declaration on equality of women and men (adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 16 November 1988, at its 83rd Session) 

  • CM (2009) 68 final 119th Session of the Committee of Ministers (Madrid, 12 May 2009) Declaration: Making gender equality a reality