Eulalia Pascual Lagunas:

Women in Europe: the new challenges


Dear friends, first of all I want to pray for your kindness. I have written my conference in English because I think this is the language that the majority of you understand. Nevertheless I´m not so fluent in English as I am in French or Spanish so I ask your benevolence on the fact that I am going to read my conference and that perhaps I am a bit slow or my pronunciation is not perfect.

When, at the Pax Romana Congress in Warsaw I proposed to put the Pax Romana Women Movement at work with the support of many colleagues that are now here I was hoping that we could, we, women of Pax Romana .work on our own issues and create a solid web between all of us. Scarcely two years have gone and I´m very happy to be speaking in our First Pax Romana Women´meeting.

I have tried to find a speech that would be interesting but also that would bring some concrete ideas and solutions. I think that most of us are well aware of the problems of today´ s society concerning women. It is important to enounce them but it is also interesting to bring not perhaps solutions but tools that can help us to face this problems. For there are certainly some solutions or at least some tools that can be stated .

The majority of the women that are here today have three common characteristics: they are women, they are European women and they are catholic women. These 3 points will influence my conference because this are three points that define our lives, our views and decisions, the way in which we understand and manage the challenges that women´ issues and our own issues as women demand.


To be a woman. I do not think that the situation of women is an issue for women to solve, because all the society and not only women is concerned. It has been proved that equality is a condition and also a result of democracy. It has also been proved that equality promotes the economical and social progress of a country. So every person must be interested on equality and women' s issues.

There are two main tendencies about the question of women : one believes and tries achieve total equality between man and woman, the other believes in an equality that is the result of respecting the differences. It is true that feminism seems to us a devaluated word, a phase that has been surpassed. Young women don´t like to talk about it: they think equality is a battle they have already won. It is difficult to be a woman today: one wants to be a professional, to have a role in society but still also wants to be a mother, a housewife. Women are confused and men are also confused. The problem is that woman have changed their roles but society continues to be the same. It has only made some little adjustments. And of course that doesn' t work or works at an enormous price for women. We are a generations of very, very tired women trying to attend too many things.

European Women

What is certain is that women and men are equal in dignity and rights as persons and that we must still fight for this equality because, even if directly discrimination is legally forbidden in the majority of European countries, indirect discrimination is very current. We, as European women, even if we are the most lucky of the world, have not achieved real and total equality. And it would be very sad to forget the condition of women in the rest of the world and forget the sufferings, the humiliations, the injustice and the struggles that form our collective memory of women..

Catholic Women

"And God created man and woman to his own image, he created them male and female and he was contented". That's what the Bible says in the Genesis 1. God makes man and woman at his own image and he creates them equals. I have no intention to discuss the Bible here. My knowledge is so very modest I won't even try to do it. That is why I will bring to you what John Paul II has written about the female condition in the Bible in Mulieris Dignitatem. We as catholic women have not often listened this part of Genesis but the other one, in Genesis 2, who says woman was made from Adams rib to obey and follow him. John Paul II offers another interpretation of this apparent contradiction. What is true is that Jesus attitude was always sympathetic to women. He respects and loves her mother and obeys her when she asks him to help the fiancés at Canaans wedding, he stops the lapidation of the adulteress, he permits the courtesan to come to him, he accepts Mary Magdalen as an apostle, he opposes to the repudiation of women who was legal by the Moises Law.. He was very much criticized in his times because he always listened and respected women. As catholic women we can be assured that Jesus never sais that women should be inferior or submitted to men. On the contrary. He gave them an active role as propagandists and transmissors of his message. They were priestesses in his time and until the VI century.

The new Europe

The ampliation of European Union has welcomed countries from the Western part of Europe. This countries, with exceptions have no democratic constitutional traditions. We can establish the flourishment of constitutional tradition in Europe in the XIX Century. With the exception of Great Britain all the countries of Europe adopted a Constitution between the XIX and the XX Centuries. In Great Britain it was substituted by Common Law but the core of the fondamental Human Rights and democratic principles were the same. The evolution of the western part of Europe was not the same. Under the communist regime the devellopment of democracy and respect of human rights and civil and politic liberties was stopped. The result of this different evolutions is that the tradition of human rights is very frail in this countries and equality is by no means accepted as a fundamental question in political issues.

So even between European women the differences are big. In a recent conference I gave in Paris I was speaking about recent laws in Spain against gender violence and one of my colleagues, from Italy, said there was no specific law about that in her country. There are big differences in the regulation each state of the European Union adopts in important questions like equality, gender violence, harmony between work and family life, sexual harassment, equal salaries and positive action measures and even more differences in countries which are in Europe but still do not belong to the UE.

Anyway as I will explain you later it is important to know what are the achievements of communitary law in the question of equality. If we know what are the laws we can demand for their application.

I think there are many problems that we have to deal now but in my opinion these are the biggest:

Gender violence, specially domestic violence is a problem that gets bigger everyday. All the measures taken seem to have very little effects. It is true that our world becomes more and more violent.. It is not politically correct to say that at the core of these crescendo of violence and desperation are the lost of values, the destruction of families and the incapacity of society to change its male chauvinist messages. Violence is used on the vulnerable, the feeble, and in our society these ones are women. Families ties have loosened and there´s plenty of lonely women trying to raise their children alone, empoverished and isolated. Liberty in relationships is very good but its results have made victims specially among women.

Another problem is to think that equality is achieved. That is what young women as I said, think nowadays. Direct discrimination maybe abolished, but discrimination persist under the form of indirect discrimination: problems at work when you get pregnant or have little children, promotions that never come even with better qualifications than men, different salaries, etc. And when you look at the governments, the institutions, the big business enterprises, the influent journalists how many women do you find there?

Let´s take as an example the situation of the biggest academic institutions of Spain: The Royal Academies: there is not one women in the Royal Academy of Jurists, in the Royal Academy of Economic Sciences. The Royal academy of Pharmacy, a career which is traditionally feminine, there´s only 5 women members. In the Academy of Arts, that has fiifty seven members only two are women. In the Council of State, wich has a hundred members (100) all are men. In the Catalan Research Institute there is no women.

The new socialist government has made a big change: there is an absolute equality, eight ministers are men and eight ministers are women. The vice-presidency has a woman.


FIGURA 1: Europea después de la última ampliación


The ampliation of the European Union was decided in Amsterdam treaty in 2000.

We have equal opportunities to study, to go to the university, but this equality stops when you get into the working world. And that it is not only a very dramatic thing it is also a very big loss for society because many economic and structural resources are invested in the education of women that are fruitless.

There are others problems that European women have to confront nowadays and one of them is immigration, and specially female immigration. There are specifical problems related to female immigration but as I have no very much time I just want to stress one important point: we cannot accept under the appearance of multiculturalism, customs and traditions that are totally contrary on equality and human rights. The United Nations made a doubtless statement : no cultural tradition can be admitted if some human right is violated.

Gender and Law in the European Union.

We already spoke of the differences between European states about the gender equality implementations but there are some achievements that community law has done in this. I would call them TOOLs because I think it´s important to study and remember to be able to apply them . Let´s began speakin about European Union common system of law. There are two classes of law : hard law and soft law We call Hard Law all the laws that are obligatory : the Treaties, the Directives, the reglamentary dispositions and the Jurisprudence of The Luxembourg Tribunal. We call Soft Law the recommendations, the common constitutional traditions. Equality was a common constitutional tradition in the precedent European Union( When there were 15 members).

Equality is a fundamental right in the European Union and it is possible to exige it at any tribunal. It is also what we call a mainstream in all the communitary political actions. The word " mainstream " was designed at the United Nation Conference on Women of Pekín. It refers to a current that goes through and impregnates all. Equality is established in the Amsterdam Treaty on articles 2 and 3. The Luxembourg Tribunal was the first to speak about equality in term of a fundamental human right in the European Union because before equality was conceived only as an equality of salaries. There is an absolute prohibition of direct discrimination.

Lets speak now about the tools and screaning test that can help us to establish the correct proceeding of our governments and institutions in the question of equality. Equality must always be surmised to test because not always an unequal treatment is discriminatory.


It is important to remember that, as Luigi Ferrajoli says, a right which is not assured by a law is not a real right. W can tell if a country really promotes equality if it has laws in those specifical areas:

Mention of equality as a fundamental right in Constitution.

Equality in employment and salaries.

Equality in Social Aide and Retreatment dispositions. There has been many cases brought on the Luxembourg Tribunal about disposition that discriminated women in retreatment dispositions in some companies like making them take their leave at an early age than men, etc.

Harmonisation of family life and profesional life

Possibility of Jobs with partial schedules ( wivh are precisely the jobs thay women and young people take).

Laws about dignity in work and sexual harassment.

Positive measures to promote the presence of women in certain profesional aereas where they are scarcely represented.. that means that with equal curriculums the women must be promoted.

Equal access to posts that detain a real influence

Equality is established in The European Chart of Fundamental Rights (art. 23), The European Convention of Human Rights ( art. 14) and the European Union Treaty (TUE art. 6). The application of mainstream is also established.

Mainstream is established in article 2 disposing that equality is a mission of the European Union and in Art 3 dispisng that equality is a way to obtain the goals of European Union and a standard for all the countries that wish to enter in the Union.



When deciding a new political action it is necessary to :

When making studies on the impact the new strategy can make on population it is necessary to make different statistics related to each sex and not one statistic .

Pay special attention to sexist or discriminatory vocabulary.

All politics that imply anti discrimination measure must have a mention on state economical dispositions.

Make a gender impact evaluation of all the political actions and new legal dispositions.

The mainstream control azures that all new political actions and legal propositions won´t be discriminatory and won´t have a negative influence, direct or indirect on gender issues.

Any way, the Strasbourg European Tribunal of Human Rights has elaborated a Test that permits to evaluate if a political measure or a law is discriminatory and contrary to the disposition on art. 14 of the European Human Rights Convention. This test can be appied by the judge, public administration or the government.


If there is a different treatment on gender this treatment must be justified by objective reasons .

The reasons that justify the difference must be accorded to the rules of democracy, fundamental human rights and traditions of the European Union concerning equality.

The measures must be proportional in relation to the causes, the purposes and the procedures used to attain them.


The indirect discrimination is also called a result discrimination. It is specially dangerous because it is very difficult to detect it. The measure is not obviously sexist, the inequality is seen in the results of the application, and it also very difficult to prove. But it can be detected by the application a this test. There is indirect discrimination when:

There is a real discrimination in facts even if there´s no specifical mention of difference theoretically.
The difference is no justified by logical, practical and reasonable reasons.
The discriminatory disposition is almost never a law but an inferior regulation, like administrative acts, sentences, and specially in private bussiness activities.
Theres is a real gender discrimination in facts.

We must give an example that will help us to understand. In a company there is a disposition that says that when there is a promotion women who are on matern ity leave would be not considered. There is no obvious discrimination because all men and women can be promoted, even if they are on sickness leave. But there is indirect discrimination because maternity leave is only a women situation. It is important to stress that maternity is not a feminine problem but a feminine very important role and contribution on society. Maternity is a private affair but it has also a social role because the continuity of natality is the condition of economic prosperity an of the social care and retreatment system in a country. Maternity is a fundamental social function that is performed by women and society must not, as is usual, punish women because of their maternity but assure the necessary conditions to promote this fundamental function which is performed by women with health and personal cost.

It is also very interesting g to note that both the Tribunals of Luxembourg and Strasbourg have established that the obligation of the proof when a indirect discrimination is denounced befalls on the denounced and not on the victim.

Mulieris dignitatem

As I said in the beginning of this speech, we cannot forget that we are Pax Romana Women and so we are catholics. I retained a very interesting phrase that was said in the recen Pax Romana Inter religious Congress of Bilbao: it was said that all religious people in the world have one think in common: they are religious so they believe in a spiritual concept of live and they have a strong sense of values. What are the values specifically concerning women. The Pope John Paul II gives some interesting views on his Mulieris Dignitatem.

First there is the contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2: God creates man and woman like his equals and afterwards it is said that woman is created from Adam rib. For John Paul II the contradiction is only apparent. Genesis 2 only tries to explain Genesis 1: woman is put in the world to help man which cannot exist alone because he is sad and very different from all the rest of creatures. The expression " made from his rib" means that woman is a part of man, part of his flesh, the other part of humanity and it is also a symbolic explanation of marriage in which these two creatures unite as one. This two creatures exist to be one for the other, help each other and realise in their union the union of humanity with God, because, as the Bible says, these are the only creatures that God has loved as himself. Women and men are the yin and yan of the universe. When Adams sees the first woman, John Paul II, tells us , he is amazed and enchanted by this creature and he loves her.

In the Bible the love of God has both feminine and masculine characteristics, John Paul II says. The submission of women to man upsets the fundamental balance of the primitive equality: he made them man and woman at his own image he made them. The image and dignity of God has been put in both of them.

As John Paul II tells us in Mulieris Dignitatem, the special role of women is strengthened in the Bible in the figure of Mary, mother of Jesus. Eve was the mother of humanity but related to sin. Mary is the new principle, the witness of the new alliance between God and humanity and this time she is perfect. In the Ancient Testament God has rarely addressed women but now there is a women at the core of this new principle. And there will be other women connected with Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was a promoter of women dignity in his time and that was a source of scandal and brought him many problems. It´s a scandal when he says: prostitutes will preceed you in entering paradise.(MT. 21,31). It´s a scandal when he answers the pharisean that have brought him an adulteress to be stoned: let the one amongst you that is free from throw the first stone. Of course he is making this men conscient of their own sins and of their cruelty in leaving the woman alone with her fault when there is another responsible, a man. When they all have gone, ashamed he turns to the woman and he doesn´t make ant reproach to her. He says . Where have they gone? Nobody condemns you? Neither do I, go and don´t err no more.

Jesus respects women and women and only them are the ones who stay with him in his last hour: Mary, his mother, Mary, wife of Cleofas and Mary Magdalen were the only ones, with the exception of the apostle John , that stayed with him when he died and there were many women who followed him in his path to the calvary. They weren´t afraid to be prosecuted , they were loyal until the end. And it was a woman, Pilato´s wife who told his husband " Don´t touch this man because he is innocent and I suffered in my dreams.

The very special role of Mary Magdalen is today very much stressed with books like the Da Vinci Code. But the truth is that she was called the apostle of the apostles and one wonders at how is it that everyone thinks of her as a prostitute. Who is the responsible of this incredible transformation from apostle to prostitute?

Maternity, says John Paul II is the way in which man and woman shares God´s creation power and man contracts a special debt with woman when she gives him a child. Any program of equality must consider specially this. In the letter to the Ephesium, Saint Paul calls Jesuchrist a spouse and Church it´s his wife and he corroborates the analogy with marriage: the husband loves his wife like Jesus love the Church. The wife welcomes this love and returns it. Woman dignity is related to the love she deserves and the love she returns. And God entrust woman to man in material things and man to woman in spiritual things.


As a conclusion I thing that the best is to quote the words that John Paul II :

" Catholic church want to give special thanks to all and each woman: the mothers, the sisters, the wives; the nuns, the women who have given their love gratis to so many people, for their love to their families, for the women who work as professionals loaded with too much responsibilities. And Catholic Church also asks for this invaluable signs of the Spirit that have been given with enourmous generosity to the daughters of the eternal Jerusalem to be duly recognized, appraised and assessed for the benefit of church and humanity, specially in our days. And meditating on the biblical mistery of the woman, church prays for all women to be reconciled wit themselves and find their vocations."



Kapcsolat: Szabó Andrea elnökségi tag a titkárság címén: