Council of Europe adopts first-ever international legal instrument to stop sexism

States should step up their fight against sexism in all walks of life, according to a Recommendation just adopted by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

In response to #MeToo and other recent movements that have heightened awareness of persistent sexism in society, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted a recommendation to stop sexism, which includes the first ever internationally agreed definition of it. The recommendation stresses that sexism is a manifestation of “historically unequal power relations” between women and men, which leads to discrimination and prevents the full advancement of women in society.

For the first time ever, sexism is defined in a legal instrument to tackle it, and by doing so, paves the way for national legislative reforms to condemn sexism and to implement appropriate measures to combat and prevent sexism in all areas of the daily life where sexism occurs.

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said, “No one should be discriminated against because of their sex. This is a basic principle which we are still far from respecting in practice. Through efforts to prevent and combat sexist behavior, the Council of Europe wants to help ensure a level playing field for women and men, boys and girls.”

Sexism is harmful and lies at the root of gender inequality. It produces feelings of worthlessness, self-censorship, changes in behavior and a deterioration in health. Sexism affects women and girls disproportionately.

To address these issues and encourage the full implementation of the Recommendation, the Council of Europe has just launched a video and action page under the hashtag #stopsexism and the slogan “See it. Name it. Stop it.” The aim is to help the wider public identify acts of sexism and take a stand against them.