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.

2023 edition
Equal rights for women and girls: the role of men and boys

Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs and President of the Committee of Ministers Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir, President of the Parliamentary Assembly Tiny Kox and Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić have made the following statement:

“Today, on International Women’s Day, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to ensuring gender equality and to protecting women’s rights. Men and boys can and should play a bigger role in advancing gender equality. They must be actors of positive change, challenging sexism and speaking up when they see women being harassed or treated unfairly”.

“Gender equality benefits everyone, men and women alike. No one should be tied to a specific gender role. Gender stereotypes perpetuate harmful ideas of what is considered “appropriate” behaviour – for both men and women – and constitute a barrier to real gender equality”.

“Gender inequality may also lead to violence. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (known as Istanbul Convention) is the Organisation’s primary tool for combating gender-based violence and promoting gender equality. The convention calls on all members of society, especially men and boys, to contribute actively to preventing all forms of gender-based violence. The Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy also encourages men and boys to promote gender equality. Very recently, a Parliamentary Assembly Resolution highlighted the crucial role and responsibility of men and boys in stopping gender-based violence”.

“Human rights are universal, and fighting against all forms of discrimination, including sexism and racism, is crucial for achieving equality and justice for all. Men leaders - whether in politics, in business, in the media, in sports or cultural institutions - must lead by example towards equality for all.”

Council of Europe Strasbourg 8 March 2023
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