Greece must put gender equality at the heart of economic and social recovery, say UN independent experts

GENEVA / ATHENS April 12, 2019 – Greece has a unique opportunity to simultaneously strengthen its economy and drive progress on women’s human rights by prioritising gender equality in its social and economic recovery, says a group of UN independent experts.

“Greece has established a strong legal and institutional framework for advancing gender equality. We welcome all measures to boost women’s participation in political, social and economic life,” said the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice, presenting a statement after visiting the country.

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“The country is now at a critical point of transition after an unprecedented and prolonged period of austerity measures, which have impacted profoundly on every aspect of people’s lives. The loss of jobs and rise in precarious work because of the financial crisis continue to disproportionately affect women, rendering them more vulnerable to poverty.

“As people in Greece highlighted to us, gender equality is a human right. It is not a luxury for better times. It must be placed at the heart of the country’s economic and social recovery.”

The experts said Greece was lagging behind other countries in the European Union on women’s rights despite legal and policy frameworks being in place, because of poor implementation, the persistence of discrimination and the lingering impacts of the crisis and austerity measures.

“Currently, Greece has one of the lowest rates of women’s employment in the European Union and is the lowest ranking country in the Gender Equality Index for EU countries. The situation for marginalised groups, such as migrant and Roma women, is even worse,” the experts said.

The experts also noted that the law in relation to maternity protection was not being implemented uniformly, and expressed concern about ongoing discrimination based on pregnancy and family responsibilities, as well as the persistence of a gender pay gap and the absence of women in leadership roles.

“We have also observed challenges in providing adequate support to women who have suffered violence, and are particularly concerned about the recent retrogressive proposal to amend the Criminal Code concerning the definition of rape,” they said.

“A concerted effort is now needed for implementation, monitoring and accountability of measures to address the issues, as well as the allocation of adequate resources for social protection and other services, particularly steps aimed at reducing women’s unpaid care workload and in efforts to prevent gender-based violence.

“Efforts to change current social norms and gender stereotypes through the education system and the media are also critical. Without strong intervention, the opportunity to accelerate the economic recovery through women’s equal participation in the social and economic recovery of Greece will not be realised.”

The experts called for Greece to prioritise the strengthening of its institutional mechanisms such as the General Secretariat for Gender Equality to support the new substantive gender equality law, the Gender Equality National Action Plan and the Ombudsman. They also proposed the use of targets and data collection.

The experts added: “We commend the government for its commitment to upholding the human rights of the unprecedented number of migrants and refugees who have arrived since 2015. However, we are concerned about the serious challenges and gaps in practice. We witnessed the particular vulnerability of women and were concerned about their safety and access to health services. ”

The Working Group delegation visited Athens, Thessaloniki and Lesvos and met national and local Government officials, as well as representatives of State institutions and civil society organisations and individuals. They also visited a school, a prison and a camp for migrants and refugees.

The experts will submit their full report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020. Their findings will inform national and international efforts to advance gender equality and the protection of human rights for women and girls across the world.