WOMEN'S RIGHTS : EQUAL RIGHTS ARE ONE THING, ON THE FIELD IT'S A DIFFERENT MATTER.

International Women's Day, on 8 March, is a yearly reminder that around the world women are not treated as equals by men. What is the landscape like in Europe? Beyond the values of equality, beyond the rights and legislation in force in most EU countries - legislation which Ukraine, in particular, can only dream of - what is it like for women in practice?

At work, at home, in politics, practical challenges remain. The EU's Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has published the widest-ranging survey in the world on the topic - with 42,000 women polled - revealing that a third of EU women report having been the target of physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. Where is progress?

It seems beyond belief that a right that is as well-established as the right to abortion can be challenged in Spain, not to mention giving homosexuals equal rights in marriage and parenthood - something which in France has caused outrage even though it has existed for a while now elsewhere in Europe.

Work figures change slowly. According to the European Commission, the salary gap between men and women is stuck at 16.4% in Europe, with a much wider gulf - for equal skills and education - at the top of companies. There are only 17.8% of women on the executive boards of major EU companies, even though women in the EU account for 60% of university graduates. Gender inequality is a difficult phenomenon to account for. Women have started entering certain fields and professions, which tend to be devalued once they take over massively - medical, paramedical, teaching, legal - while technical jobs, from plumber, train driver, IT specialist to engineer - are still predominantly male. Many countries believe that the EU should not legislate on gender equality. They take the view that it is a field that pertains to member states, as evidenced by the UK-led block on increasing the number of women on executive boards of listed companies in the EU.

Yet Europe can be a model. "In general, the...

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