The Seminar on Gender, Human Rights and Media took place in Thessaloniki, 27-30 June 2017, under the aegis of the Secretariat for Human Rights, Ministry of Justice. The Seminar has been supported by the Council of Europe, Policy Planning Division and the project “Addressing Sexual Violence Against Refugee Women” funded by the EC DG Justice and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Greece.
The Seminar aimed at promoting dialogue on gender and democratic governance through the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law, including on migrant and refugee women. Gender Equality and Violence against Women has been recognised as priority areas for the European Union and the Council of Europe. During the Seminar relevant standards, mechanisms and innovative practices were made available in setting-up and running institutions and structures, assessing and developing new legislation, exchanging promising practices, raising awareness and transferring knowledge and skills and establishing formal and informal networks.
The Seminar recognised persistent inequalities that exist both in Greece and around the world. Through this seminar, we identified, analyzed and eventually challenged and renegotiated gender relations. We started from the understanding that gender is relational and focuses on femininity, masculinity and sexuality, and intersections that interfere with sexual identity and hierarchy, and that social gender is a social construction that includes a plethora of features that refer to masculinity and femininity and separate one situation from another. Sex is not just a way of dividing bodies into. It’s everywhere and around us. Thus, the Seminar used the “sex lens” to explore relationships and power in institutional and familiar environments, in embedded practices and encoded representations, in a local, national and international environment.
An example – migration and the rise of Islamophobia in Western countries have again raised the issue of Muslim women at the forefront of public attention. Research has repeatedly challenged the caricatures and perceptions that dominate the Western speeches, which are constructing Muslim women as lacking in capacity for action, often to justify an ongoing exclusionary policy. Thus, the question arose as to how the daily life of women is affected by a modern geopolitical reform of religion and international relations, especially Islam, and that women react by means of mundane practices in everyday life.
Gender equality, enshrined in the international and national legislative and institutional framework, means equal visibility, empowerment, accountability and participation of all sexes in all areas of public and private life. It also means equal access and distribution of resources between women and men. It means accepting and equally assessing the differences between women, men and transsexuals and the different roles they play in society.
Session I: Human Rights and Gender Equality, Standards and Mechanisms addressed the following questions:
- How do you define gender equality – what does it mean and what steps are taken by your organization in achieving it? Or – can we define it through some cases of inequality that you have directly worked on?
- Gender Equality: Is it an idea (only)? An assessment of the differences in the roles women, men and transgender persons bear in the society in the framework that you refer to (national and local)
- How is gender equality ensured in the international and national legal and institutional framework? Are the mechanisms sufficient?
- How can we make sure that gender equality is a systematic practice? Are the obstacles to equality common and in what way if so? What specific actions they require? Is there equal access to resources and equal distribution of those between men and women? Which are the priorities according to you?
- Have you identified gaps and opportunities as well as best practices?
Gender equality, enshrined in the international and national legislative and institutional framework, means an equal visibility, empowerment, responsibility and participation of all sexes in all spheres of public and private life. It also means an equal access to, and distribution of resources between women and men. It means accepting and valuing equally the differences of women, men and transgender and the diverse roles they play in society. The session will also discuss how pioneering work in the fields of human rights and gender equality has also resulted in solid standards which, if fully implemented, would and bring states closer to real equality between women and men. The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings recognises that trafficking in human beings is a heavily gendered phenomenon and contains several strong references to gender equality and to mainstreaming a gender equality perspective in the area of trafficking. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle violence against women and domestic violence. It aims at zero tolerance for such violence and is a major step forward in making Europe safer for women. In addition, several EC Directives and Recommendations address gender equality issues in a broad range of areas notably violence against women, balanced participation in political and public decision-making, media, education, health.
Session II: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – Combating Gender Stereotypes and Sexism in the Μedia addressed the following questions:
- According to your experience how does stereotyping of gender roles impact upon gender equality in society as well as in governance?
- How does your work (or that of your organization) promote and protects diversities and gender orientation and identidy?
- What are the highest risks identified coming from stereotyping? What are the priorities?
- What action is needed and on what level that may prevent and combat stereotyping and ultimately, violence against LGBTQI?
- Should there be an international tool protecting the LGBTQI (Convention or such)? How does the international and European framework impact on the national and local levels?
Gender stereotyping presents a serious obstacle to the achievement of real gender equality and feeds into gender discrimination. Gender stereotypes are preconceived ideas whereby males and females are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their sex. Sex stereotyping can limit the development of the natural talents and abilities of boys and girls, women and men, their educational and professional experiences as well as life opportunities in general. Stereotypes about women both result from and are the cause of deeply engrained attitudes, values, norms and prejudices against women. They are used to justify and maintain the historical relations of power of men over women as well as sexist attitudes which are holding back the advancement of women. The Council of Europe standards and mechanisms seek to promote and ensure respect for the human rights of every individual. These include equal rights and dignity of all human beings, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.
Session III: Guaranteeing Equal Access of Women to Justice, Employment and Public Information addressed the following questions:
- Main obstacles to equal opportunities identified through your work (or that of your organization)?
- Origins and roots of inequality (environment specific)? Which are the priorities?
- What are conditions that should be met for any equality campaign? On what level?
- How can the decisions of ECHR be used as a tool to further protect and promote equal access to right? Concrete proposals?
Persisting inequalities between women and men, gender bias and stereotypes also result in unequal access of women and men to justice. A study into women’s access to the European Court of Human Rights drew attention to the low number of applications filed by women, pointing out that this possibly reflects obstacles experienced by women at national level. Reasons advanced include lack of awareness, confidence and resources, gender bias and cultural, social and economic barriers. These barriers are particularly important in the case of women victims of violence or in situations of vulnerability, such as women victims of various forms of discrimination.
Session IV: Achieving Balanced Participation of Women and Men in Political and Public Decision-Making & Gender Mainstreaming in all Policies and Measures, addressed the following questions:
- How does unequal participation in decision-making affect the implementation of existing rules and supportive policies for achieving democratic equality?
- Can specific systematic entities be identified as ‘’agents of change’’ or promotion of participation of women?
- Do you agree that gender mainstreaming can promote gender equality?
- Do you agree on the effectiveness of a dual approach combining gender mainstreaming with specific measures for the development of women to ensure better policy making and better use of resources towards effective equality between women and men?
- Can the lack of participation of women be related to concepts of (abuse) of power and control? How?
The balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision-making is a condition for justice and democracy. Men still represent on average approximately three quarters of members of national governments and parliaments. The realisation of a balanced participation of women and men in decision-making requires co-ordinated action in a wide range of areas. This includes the implementation of existing standards, but also supporting policies to achieve parity democracy.
Born of a need for a new approach to policy-making that takes into account both women’s and men’s interests and concerns the concept of gender mainstreaming was first introduced at the 1985 Nairobi World conference on Women. It was subsequently adopted as a tool to promote gender equality at all levels. When properly understood and implemented, gender mainstreaming is a transformative approach with a great potential for social change. Today, there is a wide consensus about the effectiveness of a dual approach combining gender mainstreaming and specific measures for the advancement of women, to ensure better policy making and better use of resources, as well as progress towards effective equality between women and men. In 1998, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted a Recommendation on gender mainstreaming.
Session V: Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, addressed the following questions:
- How do the political and legislative changes and initiatives impact upon violence against women, and what is taking place on the ground?
- How does your organization work on these issues? Which are the borders of the state responsibility and of social solidarity?
- Are women in radio, television, film and press under-represented? Are they discriminated? How much do they contribute to the content, are they engaged to take up leading and decision-making positions?
- What is the influence of women in the media and how present are they in the field of political analysis?
- How is gender violence presented by the mass media; what relevant rules of law apply and how are these implemented?
- We know that globally GBV incidents are underreported. Is the lack of the response by the state direct consequence of lack of reporting?
- How can media be used in combating (prevention and response) GBV?
- Are there opportunities for GBV related work in the migratory crisis in Greece and region?
Violence against women is the most common violation of women’s human rights in Europe, but progress with policy and legal reform to tackle this phenomenon is slow. Violence against women remains widespread, with devastating consequences for women, societies and economies. Opened for signature in May 2011, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is based on the understanding that violence against women is a form of gender-based violence that is committed against women because they are women. It is the obligation of the state to fully address it in all its forms and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators. Failure to do so would make it the responsibility of the state. The convention leaves no doubt: there can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on a large-scale and state agencies and institutions turn a blind eye.
During the last session on European responses in SGBV: Presentation of DG Justice programme “Addressing Sexual Violence Against Refugee Women” the UNFPA moderator presented the organisations work with refugee women in Greece and initiated the presentation of the ASVARW project. The ASVARW project aims at preventing, contrasting and treating sexual gender based violence (SGBV) against refugee and asylum seeker women. This violence – including sexual abuse, forced prostitution and sexual exploitation, human trafficking and violence within close relationships – is a well-known phenomenon across Europe and the Mediterranean countries, as pointed out by International agencies and Institutions. They recommend strengthening the protection of RAS women and girls, including those hosted in the reception facilities. Refugee reception systems are unprepared to deal with SGBV. The difficulties in identifying and treating sexual violence against women have emerged in the management of refugee reception services.