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CCGES > Current Projects > Indirect Gender Consequences of EU Policy Initiatives

Indirect Gender Consequences of EU Policy Initiatives

The member states of the European Union have, over the course of the past 40 years, taken unprecedented steps to increase formal equality between men and women. Many of these measures have contributed to shifts in the fundamental understanding of familial and gender relations in Germany and other member states.

Nonetheless, inequalities remain. Some, such as the gender wage gap, can be attributed to the incomplete implementation of existing policy. Other forms of inequality may paradoxically be the result of EU policy making in a presumed “gender neutral” manner. For example, during the latter part of the 1980s and the early 1990s, the EU and its member states took steps to deregulate the airline industry. This involved opening European airspace to non-national carriers making it possible for low-cost carriers to gain a foothold in the air transportation market. Low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Easyjet have contributed to dramatic shifts in travel and tourist patterns. Increases in “stag tourism” and sex tourism, in particular to the new member states, have increased rates of prostitution and encouraged a retrenching of notions of male domination and female subservience. Thus, the EU’s deregulation of air travel has had substantial yet largely unnoticed implications for gender relations.

A number of other policy areas have generated indirect consequences for gender relations. Education policy, transportation, internal security, immigration, agricultural policy, development and foreign policy as well as regional policies, even in the era of gender mainstreaming, may not be as gender neutral as intended, or believed. Despite a potentially widespread pattern, this area is completely under-researched. While a number of scholars have examined gender policies and gender mainstreaming, very few have questioned whether the underlying premises of the EU project contributes indirectly to gender inequalities. This research hopes to fill this research gap.

The goal of this research is to examine the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming through a discussion of what I have termed “indirect gender consequences”.   A presentation of some preliminary findings at the European Community Studies Association of Canada (ECSA-C) biannual conference 2008 generated significant interest in the idea.

Research Director: Professor Heather MacRae, Political Science