Gender Equality Policies in the European Union: Economic Integration and Feminist Transnational Advocacy

Petra Debusscher


In the course of history an interesting evolution has taken place in European gender equality policies. This story started in 1957 when the European Economic Community was founded and the principle of equal pay for equal work for men and women was included in the Treaty of Rome to avoid unfair competition and distortions in the free European market. Soon the Treaty article would evolve into a broader demand for equal rights related to work and result in a series of binding directives. In the eighties and nineties gender equality would increasingly enter other policy domains by means of non-binding soft law and gender mainstreaming. More recently, the EU has turned towards an approach of multiple discrimination which involves other grounds of discrimination, such as race and sexuality. The aim of this article is to review the history of gender equality policy in the EU while distinguishing some general trends, and discuss the implications of the most recent turn towards an anti-discrimination framework. I conclude that despite a continuous broadening of policies and strategies, economic motives continue to be the leitmotiv throughout this history. Also the broadening of EU equality policies with regard to the inclusion of multiple inequalities risks being trapped in the same economic logic. Nevertheless, despite the economic framing of EU equality policies, the pluralist and open nature of the EU’s decision-making process still provides gender activists with multiple access points to attempt to re-frame the way in which gender issues are addressed, as the struggle for a gender-just Europe continues.


 Keywords: gender equality, European Union, social policy, women’s rights, feminism

Full Text

PDF (English) PDF



  • Non ci sono refbacks, per ora.

Rivista ospitata dalla sezione Riviste della GUP - della Nunziata 6, 1° piano - 16124 Genova - Italy