The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has urged the European Union and its Member States to put gender equality at the top of their political agenda amid concerns that recent attacks on women's rights in Europe might seriously compromise progress towards equality between men and women.

"This decade is witnessing a visible and organised backlash in gender equality and human rights. In many areas, including pay, pensions and employment opportunities, progress towards equality has either stalled or gone into reverse", said Indre Vareikytė, rapporteur for the EESC Opinion on Gender equality issues.

"At the current rate, it will take over 100 years for women to become equal to men in Europe, and daughters of future generations will have fewer rights than the women of today," she added.

The EESC has called on the EU to step up its efforts and make equality a standalone goal in its future financial frameworks, with an ambitious, binding five-year strategy for effectively tackling all aspects of gender equality.

It has called on all Member States that have not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention to reconsider their position and asked the Commission to add on-line harassment and mobbing of women to the definition of illegal hate speech.

To ensure equal representation within its own ranks, the EESC has called on the Council to review its guidelines for the appointment of EESC members and recommended that the Member States select them on a gender parity basis. At present, 30% of EESC members are women. (ll)