Zagreb - As part of the programme of Croatia's presidency over the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers the Croatian government's Gender Equality Office on Tuesday presented the Council of Europe's Gender Equality Strategy for the period from 2018 to 2023, which differs from the previous one in that one goal has been added - protection of rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls.
Even if progress is visible and the legal status of women in Europe has undoubtedly improved during recent decades, effective equality between women and men is far from being a reality. Gender gaps and structural barriers persist in many areas, which limit women and men to their traditional roles, and constrain women’s opportunities to benefit from their fundamental rights.
Regular monitoring and research show that progress is very slow as regards women's political participation, access to justice and the elimination of harmful gender stereotypes and sexism. Violence against women remains one of the most pronounced expressions of the unequal power relations between women and men, it was said at the presentation.
"The new strategy focuses on preventing and fighting gender stereotypes and sexism and violence against women and domestic violence, ensuring equal access to justice for women, achieving balance between women and men in decision-making processes in political and public spheres, protecting the rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls, and incorporating the principle of gender equality in all public policies," said Gender Equality Office head Helena Štimac Radin.
Migrant, refugee women exposed to additional violence. All the goals are the same as in the previous strategy, with only one having been added - protection of migrant women. "Migrant and refugee women are often exposed to violence within their communities and to people smuggling," Štimac Radin said.
The deputy chair of the parliamentary Gender Equality Committee, Irena Petrijevčanin Vuksanović, said that 47 Council of Europe member states had agreed on the strategy.
"Even though countries had different views in a preceding debate, agreement was reached on how to protect human rights in Europe, fight discrimination and achieve the equality we aspire to," she said.
It is not sufficient for Croatia to only adopt and implement documents, there has to exist a will for general equality in society, she said. "We need experts who are not politically affiliated to speak in public and contribute to raising our awareness as a society," she said.
A state secretary at the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry, Zdravka Bušić, said that gender equality was an important element of the government's policies.
Commenting on the Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence, she said that by ratifying it, Croatia had joined a group of 30 countries that had endorsed that important international document.
"Unfortunately, we were faced with a strong public counter-campaign. In order to remove doubts regarding the scope of the Convention, the government proposed and the parliament endorsed an accompanying statement which provides a clear framework for the application of the Convention and is binding on all bodies of public administration involved in its application," Bušić said.