OECD Development Centre – Tbilisi, 15 May 2019
Despite legal reforms promoting greater gender equality, deep-rooted social norms and practices still expose Eurasian women and girls to discrimination throughout their lifetimes, notably within the family, according to the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) 2019 Regional Report for Eurasia, launched today in Tbilisi.
Since its first edition in 2009, the OECD Development Centre’s SIGI has been measuring the gaps that discriminatory laws, social norms and practices create between women and men in terms of rights and opportunities.
The report which covers 12 Eurasian countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan- shows encouraging progress. New legislation has enhanced equality and abolished discriminatory laws. The SIGI results indicate that the overall Eurasian level of discrimination in social institutions is 24%, ranging from 21% in Eastern Europe to 27% in Caucasus, compared with 29% at the global level. The twelve countries grant women and men equal parental authority and women benefit from equal inheritance rights. Eurasian countries have some of the world’s most secure reproductive autonomy rights in cases of non-desired pregnancy, with abortion on demand being legal in all 12 countries.
Nonetheless, persistent legal discrimination continues to undermine efforts to protect women’s rights. Sexual harassment, domestic violence and marital rape are not criminalised, while 17% of women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime, and up to 46% in Moldova. Deeply entrenched social norms are the most pervasive issue. In the Caucasus, for example, the undervaluing of the girl child has led to alarmingly unbalanced sex ratios: among ages 0-4, 170 000 girls are missing in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
According to the report, change is most difficult in the family unit: social expectations prevent men from assuming equal caring responsibilities, and they confine women in their reproductive role. At the regional level, 16% of the population think it is not acceptable for a woman in their family to work outside the home for pay. Moreover, although paid parental leave is granted in seven of the 12 countries in this report, men are unlikely to take their paternity or parental leave entitlements. In Armenia, 87% of men declare that they would not take paternity leave after the birth of a child and 48% say that they would not need to take parental leave because their spouse would attend to childcare. As a result, women continue to labour under the double burden of responsibility or nearly all domestic chores in addition to working outside the home. Women perform 2.5 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men per day on average.
The report estimates that gender discrimination in Eurasia induces a loss of 8% in the regional level of investment, reduces women’s average years of schooling by 16% and decreases labour force participation by 12%. As a result, the current level of discrimination reduces the 2017 regional income in Eurasia by 7.5%, a loss of USD 39 billion. If gender parity in social institutions were to be achieved by 2030, it would increase regional GDP growth in Eurasia by 0.4% every year, representing a gain of USD 2 961 per capita.
The SIGI 2019 Regional Report for Eurasia recommends governments should take three types of action to accelerate progress:
- Prioritise legal reforms and gender-responsive policies by eradicating remaining discriminatory laws and plugging legal loopholes. Statutory rights should take precedence over customary laws to enforce legal equality commitments. Moving away from traditional gender mainstreaming, Eurasian national gender strategies should adopt multi-sectoral and integrated approaches to create a more conducive enabling environment for women’s empowerment.
- Foster social transformation through community mobilisation to challenge negative gender stereotypes and reshape gender roles, particularly when focusing on women’s political and economic leadership, and the unequal distribution of caring responsibilities within the family. It is also time to redefine masculinity. A deep social transformation eliminating discriminatory customary and religious laws and practices requires a whole-of-society shift involving citizens and institutions. It is critical to draw on new actors and ways of communication to amplify the action of women’s rights movement through community dialogue and innovative practices aimed at changing gender norms across society.
- Strengthen data collection and progress monitoring to understand the drivers of gender inequality. Investment in analytical capacity is needed at the national level to ensure that policies are assessed from the perspective of women’s and men’s needs and interests, and can hold decision makers accountable for their performance in reducing the gender gap.
For more information on the SIGI and to access its 180 country notes, visit: www.genderindex.org
Access the Wikigender, online collaborative platform, available in Spanish, English and French: www.wikigender.org
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