Gender Equality in Europe ‘Advancing at Snail’s Pace’ – Council of Europe World Forum for Democracy
World Forum for Democracy speakers. Image: Nandini Archer.
Links between democracy and gender equality, political polarization and feminism, the impact of sexism on the planet, and the role of the #MeToo movement in forcing conversations on sexual harassment were among the topics discussed.
Annika Silva-Leander at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance surveyed figures on women’s political participation in different regions and cited several ‘concerning’ trends.
For the first time in more than 40 years, she said, more countries are declining rather than advancing in their democratic performance, while civic space is diminishing.
“We are deeply concerned about this because we know it has severe consequences for gender equality”, she said, though increased women’s participation is not enough to achieve more democratic societies.
Laura Silver, of the Pew Research Center based in Washington DC, spoke about the state of public opinion towards gender equality in countries around the world.
While women are more likely than men to say that gender equality is “very important”, she said, in some places there seems to be an even more important “partisan gap” in people’s responses to such questions.
In the United States, Democratic party supporters are more than twice as likely to identify as feminists than Republicans, according to the center’s research.
From the audience, one delegate said that it was urgent to address the backlash in several countries against gender studies and feminism within education systems.
Another participant suggested that, amid concern over climate change, if women could “exercise more power that could prevent the destruction of humanity”.
On Twitter, another commented: “Reminder: the 50/50 conversation about gender equality erases non-binary folks and dismisses issues faced by trans communities”.
The Council of Europe is the region’s largest institution focused on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The World Forum for Democracy was first held in 2012.
Previous editions of the event have focused on youth and politics, connecting citizens and institutions in the digital age, and the rise of populism.