As part of the programme of Croatia's presidency over the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, the government's Gender Equality Office on Tuesday presented the Council of Europe's Gender Equality Strategy for the period from 2018 to 2023.
The new strategy added one more goal to its policies - the protection of the rights of migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking women and girls.
Although visible progress has been made and the legal status of women in Europe has undoubtedly improved in recent decades, effective equality between women and men is still far from being a reality, the document said.
Gender gaps and structural barriers persist in many areas, which limit women and men to their traditional roles, and work to constrain women’s opportunities to benefit from their fundamental rights. Regular monitoring and research show that progress is very slow in regards to political participation of women, their access to justice, and the elimination of harmful gender stereotypes and sexism, it added.
"The new strategy focuses on preventing and fighting gender stereotypes and sexism, as well as violence against women and domestic violence, ensuring equal access to justice for women, achieving balance between women and men in decision-making in political and public life, protecting the rights of migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking women and girls, and incorporating the principles of gender equality in all public policies," said head of the Gender Equality Office, Helena Stimac-Radin.
The goals set by the strategy remained unchanged from Council of Europe's previous strategy, with only one new item having been added - the protection of migrant women.
"Migrant and refugee women are often exposed to violence within their communities, and to human trafficking," Stimac-Radin said.
The deputy chair of the Parliament's Gender Equality Committee, Irena Petrijevcanin-Vuksanovic, said that 47 Council of Europe member states had agreed on the strategy.
"Even though countries had differing views in the debate preceding the adoption of this strategy, agreement was reached on how to protect human rights in Europe, fight discrimination and achieve the equality we aspire to," she said.
She warned that it is not enough for Croatia to adopt and implement documents, adding that there must be a willingness to achieve general equality in the society, she said.
"We need experts who are not politically affiliated to speak in public and contribute to raising our awareness as a society," Petrijevcanin-Vuksanovic said.
An official at the Foreign Ministry, Zdravka Busic, said that gender equality was an important element of the government's policies.
Commenting on the Council of Europe's Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women, Busic said that by ratifying it in April, Croatia had joined a group of 30 countries that had endorsed that important international document.
"Unfortunately, we were faced with a strong public counter-campaign. In order to remove doubts regarding the scope of the Convention, the government proposed and the parliament endorsed an accompanying statement which provided a clear framework for the application of the Convention, and is binding on all bodies of public administration involved in its application," Busic said.