Editorial: 'Greater focus on gender inequality'
The ratification, albeit belated, of the Istanbul Convention by Ireland is an important and welcome development in preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, but should not mark the end of efforts against what is a prevalent form of violence in our society. In tandem with these continuing efforts, greater focus must also be brought to eradicate all forms of inequality between men and women, particularly in the areas of politics, business, and employment in general.
At a special Cabinet meeting to mark International Women's Day last week, the Government approved a number of measures to foster gender equality and to promote greater gender balance across a number of areas. Among other things, these measures provide that companies of 50 and more employees will be required to complete a wage survey; sets a target of 40pc female representation on all state boards and promotes greater gender balance in the senior leadership of the public sector; continues to review gender balance in corporate boards and in senior management of companies and includes actions to advance socio-economic equality for women and girls and women's leadership at all levels.
Insofar as it goes, all of these initiatives are most welcome. However, concerns remain that the State continues to 'set targets', 'promote' and 'review'. The facts remain that while the employment rate for women is at an all-time high, greater efforts must be made to improve female participation in the labour market. With salaries on average at 16pc lower than for men across the European Union, women are more at risk of poverty. This translates in the pension gap, for example, which stood at 35.7pc in 2017. In some countries, more than 10pc of older women cannot afford necessary health care. Furthermore, despite efforts to improve the situation, women remain largely under-represented in parliaments, including both Dail and Seanad Eireann, and the glass-ceiling remains a reality in the business world. However, correcting the imbalance is not the sole preserve of Government, but the responsibility of decision-makers everywhere, in both the public and private sectors.
The purposes of the Istanbul Convention are noble, indeed, to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence; to contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women; to design a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence; to promote international co-operation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence and to provide support and assistance to organisations and law enforcement agencies to effectively co-operate in order to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.
In an advanced society such as exists in Ireland and throughout the EU, it is disappointing indeed that such measures are only now being fully implemented, but perhaps not so surprising. The awakening that has taken place in this regard in recent times has been profound. However, it is critically important now that there is follow-through on the intentions behind these overdue advancements.