Every law is an opportunity to reduce inequalities between men and women

04 Oct 2017

 Ukrainian politicians during All-Ukraine seminar-conference on implementation of the Ukraine's concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Ukraine (July 2017). Photo credit: UNDP in Ukraine

In every country, parliamentarians play a key role in in identifying opportunities for increasing equality between men and women. But to do this they need sound, impartial evidence and effective engagement with experts and citizens. In Ukraine, members of Parliament are exploring various ways of embedding a gender perspective in legislative scrutiny.

Gender analysis of legislation

Decisions about laws do not affect everyone in the same way. A gender analysis is a process used to analyse the potential impact of laws on women and men to make sure they will not unfairly disadvantage or discriminate against people because of their gender. The process can be extended to include age, disability, ethnicity, location, economic status and many other factors that affect how people experience life.

A gender analysis aims to:

·        identify legislative opportunities to increase equality, and to ensure that existing inequalities are not widened, and

·        ensure that decisions do not unfairly/ disproportionately negatively affect women or men.

Considering legislation from a gender perspective ensures that decisions about people’s lives take account of their different experiences and needs. If these differences are not considered, there is an assumption that decisions will affect everyone in the same way, which could lead to negative or unintended effects. Better scrutiny of this impact helps a country make more effective and more efficient legislation.

Data is key

 

Data source: UK Office for National Statistics

The evidence used by parliamentarians when scrutinising legislation is the key to embedding a gender perspective. Data can tell very different stories about important issues when gender is considered. A member of Parliament (MP) considering a change in the law relating to- for example, mental health services may have a dramatically different opinion if they consider data that is broken down by gender as part of their scrutiny.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) Action Plan for Gender Sensitive Parliaments recommends that parliaments “develop clear gender-based legislative assessment guidelines or toolkits” for their Members.

In Fiji, the United Nations Development Programme and the national parliament developed a practical toolkit for scrutinising legislation from a gender perspective in response to MP’s concerns about fulfilling the Parliament’s Rules of the House relating to gender. The rules require all committees to “ensure all matters are considered with regard to the impact and benefit on both men and women equally”. The short toolkit provides MPs with the rationale for analysing legislation from a gender perspective, a basic framework for analysis alongside an example of its practical application, and a range of reliable data sources.

The framework is very simple and aims to balance effectiveness and practicality, given the competing demands in MP’s time during legislative scrutiny. The four steps can be adapted and enhanced depending on the situation and time available.

Basic framework for gender analysis of legislation

1. Identify the issue

Break large laws or policies into single issues and prioritise the ones you think may have the most significant impact.

2. Find evidence

  • Gather information and data on the people who could be affected by the issue you are considering.
  • They could be users of a service, or a workforce involved in delivering it. You may also wish to consider the decision-makers involved in the issue.
  • Find information that is disaggregated by gender, reliable and up to date. Use experts and draw from a wide range of sources.
  • Identify existing inequalities relating to the issue.

3. Ask the right questions

Fill in the gaps in your evidence by asking committee witnesses during evidence sessions, or through written submissions. Ask the same questions to each witness. You could ask:

  • Is the legislation likely to increase or decrease existing inequalities between men and women?
  • Is there disaggregated data available about the people likely to be affected by this change?
  • How is this change likely to affect men and women in different ways?
  • Does the legislation need to be changed to account for differences between men and women?
  • Do men and women need to be educated about the new law in different ways?

4. Make recommendations

Make an assessment of the gender impact of the law. If you think that:

  • the decision may disproportionately negatively affect women or men;
  • an opportunity to reduce an existing inequality has been missed;
  • additional measures to mitigate against a negative impact need to be added;
  • there is not enough evidence to make an assessment, and you think that there should be,

… you can: amend the law, make recommendations to the government to change a policy or budget, or highlight particular areas of concern.

 

In Ukraine, the EU-UNDP Rada for Europe project works with the Verkhovna Rada and its secretariat to support inclusion of gender impact analysis as part of the tools parliament can use to support sustainable development to enable all the people of Ukraine to achieve their aspirations.

On 15 September, the Gender Equality subcommittee of the Verkhovna Rada and the EU-UNDP Rada for Europe project, with UN Women, organized a workshop for MPs and staff of the Verkhovna Rada. The session focused on gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting the essential role of parliaments to the 2030 Agenda. The 35 attendees including representatives of the Gender Equality subcommittee and the Equal Opportunities cross-party caucus, as well as MPs from the European Parliament, Georgia, and Moldova, discussed various ways of embedding a gender perspective in legislative scrutiny, including through systematic gender analyses of draft laws.

Hannah Johnson is a consultant to the EU-UNDP Rada for Europe project in Ukraine.

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