The Slovenia Times

Dangers to progress in gender equality raised on Women's Day


Still, the country faces inequality in everyday life and, of late, growing threats to rights obtained, human rights groups and officials warn on International Women's Day.

Official data shows pay equality in Slovenia to be the highest in the EU. In its annual report, Eurostat said the gender pay gap in Slovenia stands at 2.9%, the lowest in the bloc and more than five times below 16.1% average in the 28 countries. It fell from 3.2% last year.

While this data is frequently quoted as a testament to progress in gender equality in the country, human rights groups and officials say that other statistics and anecdotal evidence shows that work in the area is far from done.

Vita Activa, a society working for social equality and plurality, says that decades of work on gender equality led by women has helped develop greater possibilities of career and life choices for women, and subsequently for men.

Despite the important progress, gender inequality has not been rooted out fully and in some segments threats to equality are growing.

"The current political and economic conditions do not inspire confidence for the future," the group has said in a joint statement with the Slovenian Society of Sociology ahead of 8 March.

Different groups of women face evolving challenges: young women face precarious forms of employment, mid-career professionals face employer discrimination on family choices, and elderly women are faced with increased risk of poverty due to welfare cuts.

Data released by the national Statistics Office show that women face a higher risk of poverty, with 15.2% at risk against 13.7% of men. Unemployment is also higher among women: 13.7% to 11.1%. This despite the fact that, for years, women have outperformed men in tertiary education.

Inequality is also manifested in the diminished role of women in key decision-making process in politics and business. While the share of women in parliament rose to 38% following the last general election in 2014, Slovenia has had only one head of state, government or parliament in 25 years.

In business, the share of senior managers stands at 20% among board members and at only 5% among chief executives.

This has been raised by Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Anja Kopač Mrak in her message on Women's Day. "Women's involvement in decision-making needs to be upgraded," she said.

"If we have managed to achieve major improvements in political decision-making with women quotas, we need to follow up with quotas in business," said Kopač Mrak, who has promised legislation this year.

The minister believes that the need for further improvements as well as recent developments make 8 March anything but an obsolete holiday.

"It is a holiday of the current generation, a generation of girls, young women and women who deserve equal treatment to boys, young men and men. It is a holiday for everyone who believes in democracy and human rights."

The need to celebrate progress in this field and nurture it has also been raised by the Women's Lobby of Slovenia, which has suggested that the economic crisis and related political and social developments have started to erode human rights and as such pose a threat to achieved equality.

The women's rights group highlighted protests against abortion that have been held in front of the Ljubljana Maternity Ward as an example. "The right to control one's body needs to be defended decisively," said the group's head Sonja Lokar.

"The razor wire, soldiers on the border, public prayers in front of the maternity ward, racist rallies against refugees are all part of the same process: the dying of democracy, equality, humanity and solidarity," said Lokar.

A shift of traditional values in times of crisis is cited as a cause. According to a sociologist, stereotypes such as those on gender are deeply instilled in people. "We resort to them without thinking," said Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrčela of the Faculty of Social Science in Ljubljana.

In a time when the years and years of progress in gender equality are being put to an increasing test, the rights of marginalized groups of women are completely ignored, Vita Activa and the Slovenian Society of Sociology have warned.

"This includes the right to in-vitro fertilisation of single women, the rights of lesbians, the rights of trans-gender persons and the rights of migrants," they said.

Another group has meanwhile warned about the continuing problem of domestic violence. The SOS society providing a hotline for women victims of domestic abuse says that "unfortunately it is still all too common that the home and partners present the biggest danger to many women".

"This form of violence requires the most time to come to the surface and leaves the biggest scars. It is also a form of violence for which society has shown the greatest level of tolerance," the group said.

SOS received over 3,165 calls related to domestic violence last year and provided shelter to 69 women. Statistics Office data meanwhile indicates that around 1,600 women in Slovenia report physical or sexual abuse each year.

One in three women in the EU is shown by data obtained as part of a project conducted throughout the bloc to have suffered some form of violence during their lives, with domestic violence still being the most common form.

The problem of domestic violence was also raised by Human Rights Ombudsman Vlasta Nussdorfer.

"In Slovenia women still die all too often because of violence direct at them. These are so called 'deaths by the stove', as more often than not they happen at home," Nussdorfer said in her statement.


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