20 February, 2016

Gender equality basics

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Category: European Action Day, gender equality, sexist hate speech
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SEXIST másolata

Below you can find some explanation of important definitions and aspects of gender equality and sexist hate speech which will help you understand more about what sexist hate speech is and why it is important to speak up against sexist hate speech.

What is Gender Equality?

According to the Council of Europe Gender equality Gender equality means an equal visibility, empowerment and participation of both sexes in all spheres of public and private life. Gender equality is the opposite of gender inequality, not of gender difference, and aims to promote the full participation of women and men in society. It means accepting and valuing equally the differences between women and men and the diverse roles they play in society. Gender equality includes the right to be different. This means taking into account the existing differences among women and men, which are related to class, political opinion, religion, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation. Gender equality means discussing how it is possible to go further, to change the structures in society which contribute to maintaining the unequal power relationships between women and men, and to reach a better balance in the various female and male values and priorities.

What is sexist hate speech? 

To understand this term we should first look at the definition of sexism, it can be defined as “the supposition, belief or assertion that one sex is superior to the other, often expressed in the context of traditional stereotyping of social roles on the basis of sex, with resultant discrimination practices against members of the supposedly inferior sex” Sexism is most often addressed as an act of discrimination addressed through anti-discrimination and gender equality legislation and measures.

“Sexist hate speech” as a legal term is only present in some national laws but legal documents support its inclusion, including the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Recommendation (97) 20 on hate speech. Sexist hate speech targeting women has been referred to in several terms such as “sexualised hate speech”, “sexist hate speech”, “cyber gender harassment”, or “cybersexism”. The aims are to humiliate and objectify women, to destroy their reputation and to make them vulnerable and fearful. It is a form of “social shaming”, spreading the message that the woman is not “a full human being” .

As gender discrimination, sexist hate speech “has a set of core features: (1) its victims are female [men are less targeted], (2) the harassment is aimed at particular women, and (3) the abuse involves the targeted individual’s gender in sexually threatening and degrading ways”

What is the Istanbul Convention?

It is a Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence which was opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey and entered into force in August 2014. It has included several articles on the issue of gender based violence through online means and forms a strong bases to take action against Sexist Hate speech because it being ratified by most of the Council of Europe member states.

What is a gender stereotype?

Gender stereotyping presents a serious obstacle to the achievement of real gender equality and feeds into gender discrimination. Gender stereotypes are preconceived ideas whereby males and females are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their sex.

What is Feminism?

Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women, including to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

What is Gender Mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming is the development and evaluation of policies, so that a gender equality perspective is incorporated at all levels at all stages, by the actors involved in policy-making

Is it true that gender stereotypes in advertising improve sales?

It is not true. Several studies indicated the vast majority of neither women nor men could identify with the gender stereotypes (as females, males, mothers, fathers etc) depicted in ads, thus such advertisements have been proved counterproductive.

Is the elimination of sexist hate speech contrary to freedom of expression?

No, sexist hate speech is just as unjustifiable as racist, homophobic and antisemitism hate speech and prevents groups targeted by hate speech to express themselves in the online public space. All Council of Europe member states have legislation in place prohibiting discrimination and ensuring the full participation of all members of the society in the public debate. 

 Is combating sexist hate speech an issue for women only?

Sexist hate speech is an issue for everybody as it undermines democratic debate and the space that women can take in society.


Want to learn more?

There is a lot of information available on the topic of Gender Equality and Sexist Hate Speech.

For more explanation of often heard terms we recommend you the Council of Europe Gender Equality Glossary

The Background note of Sexist Hate Speech provides you a interesting and comprehensive explanation on the issues and the relevant conventions.

You can consult the information on the Fachsheet on Key standards drafted by the Council of Europe.

And of course there are numerous educational and campaign materials you could review drafted for the Action day of 8 March


Want to take action? Read the blog: what-can-you-do-to-counter-sexist-hate-speech-on-8th-march


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