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Gender Equality for Whom?

Some Intersectional Thoughts on the 8th of March 2015

By Sabrina Marchetti

Jean Monnet Fellow, Global Governance Programme

06 March 2015


This year’s International Women’s Day coincides with the 20th anniversary of the World Conference for Women in Beijing, a turning point for the global agenda for gender equality. Record numbers of global leaders, NGOs and UN representatives are expected to meet  for the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York from 9-20 March. They will take stock of the progress made and of the unaddressed issues that need action.

The Beijing Platform for Action identified 12 critical areas for women’s rights, and despite progress has certainly been made - for example in terms of poverty reduction and increased access to primary education for women - after 20 years there is still a lot to do. Every day, about 800 women around the world die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications,  and 1 out of 3 women experience physical violence. Women earn 10-30% less than men for the same job, and they account for only 22% of parliamentarians at the national levels. For these reasons the UN Women Executive Director renewed the call for all countries to commit to gender parity and to achieve a “50-50 Planet” by 2030.

But here comes the problem. Are all women equal in relation to gender equality? Although globally it is crucial to fight for all women’s rights, in some contexts the difference that exists between women cannot be neglected. Especially in Europe where we experience increasing diversity for race/ethnicity, religion, citizenship, etc., for those women who face multiple discriminations - as in the case of racialised women or transgender women - the equality gap might be larger compared to other women rather than men from the same group.

For this reason, the new Gender Equality Index of the European Institute of Gender Equality takes into account the so called “intersecting discriminations”. Class difference, race-based discriminations, lack of educational opportunities and of citizenship rights are not separated from gender inequality but interact with it exacerbating, in some case, its effect on women’s lives. However, integrating these elements in the calculation of the index finds a number of empirical obstacles: for example, data on ethnicity are not collected in all EU countries and not in the same way. Yet it would be of extreme importance to establish a connection between analysis on gender-based discriminations and data produced by other EU bodies such as the EUROSTAT integration statistics, or FRA surveys on multiple discriminations, Roma people and LGBT rights.

 On this important anniversary, the wish to make for the future is that the auspices of the EU Treaty of 2012 to “combat discriminations based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation” finally become reality. Gender equality is indeed a key issue to be addressed, but not the only one for women. 


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