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Article

Gender Equality Laws in the Post Socialist States of Central and Eastern Europe

Mainstream Fixture or Fizzer?

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 4 2012
Keywords gender equality laws, enforcement mechanisms, rule of law, post-socialist states, European Union
Authors Christine Forster and Vedna Jivan
AbstractAuthor's information

    In Central and Eastern European countries, the enactment of gender equality laws (GELs), defined as stand-alone national legislation that provide an overarching legislative response to gender discrimination as distinct from the traditional approach of incorporating gender equality provisions into existing legislation or constitutions, has been a marked regional trend since the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, rather than being driven by domestic movements for change, GELs seem primarily to have emerged due to pressure from development agencies, potential trading partners and donor organisations which predicate their assistance and business on the establishment of the ‘rule of law’ and of particular relevance in the region the desire to join the European Union (EU), which requires potential members to introduce gender equality legislation as part of the communtaire aquis. Despite the widespread enactment of GELs in the region, research suggests that the implementation of GELs has been slow, inefficient and in some cases non-existent. Reasons posited for this include a lack of judicial familiarity with new concepts contained in the legislation, the use of legislation taken from models in existing member states, lack of information disseminated about the new laws to relevant parties, weak political support and capacity weakness in states that are resource stretched. This article considers a further reason – the weakness of the enforcement and implementation mechanisms in the laws themselves and argues that despite the placement of expansive positive duties on a range of public and private actors in many of the GELs, the implementation and enforcement mechanisms of the fifteen GELs considered are weak. Consequently, despite their remarkable scope the duties created under the GELs are largely symbolic and will continue to be so unless, such legislation is amended to include mechanisms to enable the realization of those duties in practice.


Christine Forster
Christine Forster is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Vedna Jivan
Vedna Jivan is Senior Lecturer, UTS Faculty of Law, Australia.
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