Over the last thirty years, the legal status of women in Europe has undoubtedly improved, but effective equality is far from being a reality. Women are still marginalised in political and public life, paid less for work of equal value, find themselves victims of poverty and unemployment more often than men, and are more frequently subjected to violence. The Council of Europe has taken steps at different levels in order to promote equality between women and men. While the European Convention on Human Rights does not include equality between women and men as a general principle, it does, under Article 14, prohibit any "distinction" based, inter alia, on grounds of sex, in relation to the rights protected. Furthermore, the principle of equality between spouses with regard to their rights and responsibilities in marriage has been added to the Convention in Protocol No. 7. However, the inclusion in the Convention of a fundamental right of women and men to equality continues to be called for, not least by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the matter is under consideration at the intergovernmental level.
The European Social Charter provides a number of specific rights for women, namely equal remuneration, protection of mothers and working women and the social and economic protection of women and children. The Additional Protocol of 1988 included the right to equal opportunities and treatment with regard to employment and careers, without discrimination based on sex. Furthermore, the revised Social Charter contains a specific non-discrimination clause on a variety of grounds, one of which is sex.
Apart from these legal instruments the Council of Europe is committed to a whole range of other measures and activities to promote equality between women and men.
A declaration by the Committee of Ministers in 1988 gave new impetus to this work. It affirmed that equality was an integral part of human rights and that the eradication of sex-related...