Monday, 16 February 2015

Praxis’ Comments on Model Law on Gender Equality

In order to contribute to efficient realisation of the principle of gender equality, Praxis has submitted its comments on the Model Law on Gender Equality.

The Gender Equality Council of the Protector of Citizens prepared the Model Law on Gender Equality, which was presented on 10 December 2014 in the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. The first novelty brought by this Model Law on Gender Equality is its changed title, since the existing law regulating this area is entitled Law on the Equality of Sexes (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, 104/2009). The Model Law on Gender Equality is divided into eleven chapters. The structural novelty is the introduction of new chapters: Equal Opportunity Policy and Special Measures; Protection from Gender-based Violence; and Gender Equality Institutions. The chapter Equal Opportunity Policy and Special Measures focuses on defining special measures as an instrument of equal opportunity policy. The obligation of public authorities to adopt an action plan for promoting gender equality every four years has been established. This obligation is a novelty in the existing legal framework, given that the Law on the Equality of Sexes envisaged the obligation of drafting these plans annually for employers with more than 50 staff employed for an indefinite period. The Model Law proposes the obligation of public authorities and employers, which employ more than 20 persons, to incorporate provisions on gender equality in their general legal acts. The chapter entitled Protection from Gender-based Violence defines the obligations of public authorities with regard to the provision of general (legal and psychological counselling, emergency and continuous financial assistance, housing, education, training and assistance in employment) and specialised (SOS lines, safe houses and shelters, specialised free legal assistance) services of support to victims of gender-based violence.

The obligations of public authorities as defined in this chapter are in line with the obligations that the Republic of Serbia has undertaken by ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. Significant novelties have been introduced also in the fields of employment, social protection and health care by defining the content of the records on gender structure of employees, special provisions on the valuation of household work as the basis for exercising the right to health insurance, possibility of absence from work if upon written notice of harassment or sexual harassment the employer fails to take timely and effective protection measures. Also, ten groups of the population exposed to increased risk of morbidity have been established (women in relation to family planning, people with HIV infection or other infectious diseases, persons without sufficient financial resources, beneficiaries of permanent financial assistance, the unemployed, the Roma, victims of violence, victims of trafficking in human beings, persons provided with targeted preventive examinations and single parents). In the field of judicial protection, the deadline for replying to appeals was changed to 15 days. The penal policy for non-compliance with obligations established by the Model Law has been made stricter.

Praxis made several suggestions. Specifically, Praxis believes that the concept of indirect discrimination should be defined in line with the EU acquis in the field of anti-discrimination. It is necessary to penalise the non-compliance with the obligation of political parties, trade unions and professional associations to adopt an action plan, every four years, with special measures for encouraging the promotion of equal representation of men and women in their bodies. Special measures should be used to intervene in the field of professional upgrading and training in the situations where the structure of employees by gender at the level of employer is unfavourable, with the aim of providing equal representation of the under-represented gender in the management and decision-making bodies, given that professional upgrading and training are important factors of advancement. Although the Model Law has established the obligation of public authorities and employers to adopt and implement special measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination based on sex, gender and gender identity, the gender identity as grounds for discrimination has been omitted from a number of provisions that allow the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by law regardless of sex, gender, marital status, family status, pregnancy, motherhood, parenting or sexual orientation.

See First working version of the Model on Law on Gender Equality

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