EU Human rights and gender equality policies and tools and their challenges

AuthorDeniz Devrim - Roland Blomeyer - Paul Dalton - Senni Mut-Tracy
Discriminatory Laws Undermining Women’s Rights
Against a background where an increasing number of countries across the world are taking illiberal stances
and p revio usly -won human rights protections are threatened, the EU needs to continue its strong support
for reform of laws that discriminate against women and prevent them fr om pa rticipa ting in s ociety on an
equal basis with men. To counter the backsliding of gender equality rights and norms, EU support for
organis ations against conservative forces must be strengthened and susta ined. The global backlash
against g ender equality and women and girls’ rights is likely to continue in the coming years. Therefore,
str ong s upport for gen der equa lity a s a key prin ciple un derlying all E U po licies a nd pr ogram mes will
cont inue t o be cru cial.
7 EU Human rights and gender equality policies and tools and
their challenges
7.1 The EU human rights policy framework
The promotion and protection of human rights and gender equality is a priority for the EU in its relations
with t hird co unt ries. In the Lisbon Treaty, human rights and democracy as well as eq ualit y between women
and men ar e considered as cor e EU for eign policy goals. Th e EU is com mitted to advancing equal
participation o f women in policy, govern ance and electoral processes at all levels 84.
Targeted financing of projects and programmes, gender mainstreaming and the rig hts -based approach
(RBA) are the principal method s thro ugh which EC development progr ammes purs ue the EUs
longstanding legal and political commitments to gender equality and the promotion and protection of
human rights. They are also central to the EUs approach to supporting the achievement of the Sus tainable
Development Goa ls. This is made clear in t he New European Con sensus on Development85:
‘15. Gender equality is at the core of th e EU’s values and is enshrined in its leg al and p olitical
framework. It is vital for achieving the SDGs and cuts across the whole 2030 Agenda. The EU and
its Member St ates will promote women’s and girls’ rights, gender equality, the empowerment of
women and girls and their protection as a priority across all areas of action.
16. The EU and its Member States will implement a rights-based a pproach to dev elopment
cooperation, encompassing all human rights. They will promote inclusion and participation, non-
discr iminat ion, equality and equity , trans par ency and acc ou ntab ili ty . T he EU an d it s Me mb er S tates
will continue to play a key role in ensuring that no-one is left behind, wherever people live and
regardles s of ethnicity, gender, a ge, disability, religion or beliefs, sexual or ientation and gender
identity, migration status or other factors. This approach includes addressing the multiple
discr iminat ions face by vulne rable peo ple and mar ginalised g roups.’
Both gender mainstreaming and RBA address gender equality and non-dis crimin atio n, prin ciples of
international human rights law which the Member States and the EU’s development part ners have
comm itted to inco rpo rating in t heir d omes tic law and im plemen ting in pract ice.
Specific measur es to pro mote human rights are det ailed in the EU Stra tegic Framework on Hu ma n Ri ghts
and Democracy, which was adopted in 2012, and the related Action Plan, of which the latest edition
cover ing 2020-2024 ha s been pro posed in March 2020. Th e EU has also developed guidelines on pr iority
human rights themes, including on violence against women and girls and on non-discrimination . While
84 Council conclusions on Gender in Development, doc. 9241/15, 26 May 2015
85 The Ne w European Consensus on Development ‘Our World, Our Di gnity, Our Fut ure’ joi nt statement by the Council and the
representatives of the governments of the Member States me eti ng within the Council, the European P arliament and the Eur opean
Commissi on, 7 th June 2017

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