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Ecuadorian legislators face gender equality challenge

Posted: 2009-09-10

Ecuador’s new Constitution includes sweeping guarantees of gender equality, which the country’s legislators must now translate into laws and regulations. The Agora Democrática Programme (a joint initiative of International IDEA and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy) is providing information and support for the process.

“One of the basic principles of democracy is equality,” says Solanda Goyes, gender and democracy coordinator for International IDEA’s Agora Democrática project in Ecuador. “Helping to close the huge inequality gap between men and women that persists in Ecuador is a way to contribute to stronger democracy.”

Agora Democrática sponsored a series of meetings with legislators who identified two priority areas for gender equality: the criminal code, which establishes penalties for sex crimes, trafficking and sexual exploitation, and gender violence; and social security, which establishes remuneration and benefits. An estimated 70 percent of Ecuadorian women suffer from domestic violence, and the wage differential between men and women is some 30 percent.

Agora’s earlier efforts to promote gender mainstreaming in politics left its mark on the new Constitution, which establishes mechanisms to ensure equal treatment for male and female candidates for political office and requires parties to implement gender-equality practices. The Constitution, which Goyes calls “one of the most advanced in Latin America and the world” in terms of gender equality, also includes principles of non-discrimination; a prohibition against advertising that promotes violence, sexism or discrimination; equality in education and health care; priority care for women and girls; rights for female senior citizens and pregnant women; sexual and reproductive rights; shared responsibility in the family; gender justice and victims’ rights; a gender-sensitive approach to public policy; equal property rights; social security for homemakers; and equal rights in the workplace.

At a meeting on 20 August 2009, attended by parliamentary leaders and representatives from all parties, 50 of the 69 participants signed a commitment to women’s rights that included the prevention and punishment of all forms of violence and exploitation; protection of and reparations for women who are victims of violence; the drafting of legislation to ensure equal access for women to health care, education, culture and recreation; measures to ensure access to jobs, credit and ownership of the means of production; expansion of social security, especially for homemakers; valuing of women’s domestic duties; the principle of parity in governmental decision making; and combatting discrimination against women in the political, social, economic and labor spheres. Agora Democrática is assisting with workshops on human rights and gender targeted at advisers to the National Assembly and women working in government agencies, to ensure a coordinated approach to these goals. Future actions will include support for the formation of a congressional caucus for women’s rights; a multi-party Women’s Group in the Assembly to develop an agenda emphasizing inclusion and gender equality; and participation in a Latin American network of women in local public office, to encourage female officials at the sub-national level to include women’s rights on their political agendas.

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