As the EU is facing new and old challenges, it is crucial to reflect on what the EU really needs to reinforce its legitimacy and comply with its democratic foundations. Parity democracy, which first emerged on the EU agenda in the early nineties, comes as a necessary next step in the European project to strengthen democracy and adopt an approach that makes gender equality effective and sustainable.

The concept of parity democracy, contrary to what many might think, it does not limit itself to increasing the number of women in politics, decision-making positions and democratic bodies. Parity democracy entails a transformation of our understanding of democracy, political culture and structures, and a true embracement of equality between women and men as a fundamental principle in which a democratic system is based.

Parity democracy is both a concept and a goal which aims to acknowledge the equal value of women and men, their equal dignity and their obligation to share rights and responsibilities, free from prejudices and gender stereotyping. This constitutes a radically new approach to gender equality policies, where the correction of past discriminations is complemented by the fundamental right to equality, which becomes a legal requirement. As Eliane Vogel Polsky wrote on the concept of parity democracy:

“The construction of the right to equality as it has been developed so far is difficult to implement because it is subject to legal systems created without women. If parity representation is recognized to be a necessary condition of democracy rather than a remote consequence, then the rules of the game and social norms will have to change. This could radically transform society and allow for real gender equal relations”.

This implies that democracy and gender equality should be read together. This policy paper aims to reconsider the concept of parity democracy in the current context of the EU and focusing on the upcoming elections to the EP in May 2019. As developed in the Athens Declaration, adopted at the European Summit of Women in Power in 1992, parity democracy stands on 5 basic arguments (equality, democracy, good use of human resources, needs and interests of women and quality of policy-making) which are recalled and updated with a view to provide stakeholders, including democrats standing for gender equality and feminist movements, with useful ammunitions to inform and convince EU citizens (women and men) to vote and to vote for women defending equality. This policy paper is, therefore, part of broader Gender Five Plus’ efforts to inform EU citizens and influence stakeholders for greater gender balance in the EU.

The analysis in this policy paper is based on desk research, literature review and includes diverse forms of experience in EU policy-making. It is divided into four different parts and a list of recommendations. Part I tries to answer the question of why parity democracy is important to the EU; Part II focuses on why the EU and parity democracy are important to women; Part III analyses gender balance in the EU decision-making (focusing in the EP); Part IV examines the possible challenges and opportunities for fostering parity democracy in the current EU context and the conclusion provides space for a reflection on the EU that we want and need to build. Finally, derived from the analysis of the whole policy paper, a noncomprehensive list of recommendations is provided.


Download report here [ENG]

Download report here [FR]

Download report here [EL]






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