Ladies and Gentlemen,
Twenty years ago, in recognizing the future value to the emancipation of women and girls throughout the world of the Beijing Platform for Action – which we are celebrating at this session – Italy decided to equip itself with a system that included various institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality at the government level.
In 1996, the Department of Equal Opportunities was created within the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, with the primary task of coordinating all the legal, administrative, and strategic initiatives of the Government in the area of gender equality. Over the years the Department has been a strenuous promoter of significant actions on various fronts, such as the prevention of and fight against violence against women and girls, countering every form of violence against women, the promotion of women’s empowerment, and the abandonment of harmful traditional practices. To counter the discrimination suffered by women in the workplace, the Ministry of Labor established the National Committee for the implementation of the principles of equal treatment and equal opportunity between male and female workers as well as the National Network of Equality Advisors.
From the beginning it was clear that, to realize concretely the equality objectives that we set and that the Platform enunciated so completely, it would be necessary to adopt a two-track approach. This approach is based, on the one hand, on the drafting and implementation of specific positive actions, and on the other, on the promotion of gender mainstreaming. This is done in the conviction that if specific actions produce effects that are more immediate but targeting only single action areas, then mainstreaming, while requiring more time, would enable the necessary cultural shift within the Country.
In terms of specific areas, I wish to recall that, over the years, Italy has been engaged in the adoption of innovative, concrete measures, including the introduction of the crime of stalking into Italian law, the adoption of legislation on gender quotas on the Boards of publically-traded companies, the drafting and implementation of a Protocol of Understanding on the subject of reconciliation, and a special programmatic plan to counter female genital mutilation.
But gender equality is not a goal that is exclusive to the institutional mechanisms dedicated to it. The achievement of gender equality is a priority that influences the lives of everyone. The lives of women and of men. Of boys and girls. In every sector of social life. This is why it is essential to involve all the public offices in the process of shifting toward a genuine achievement of gender equality.
To this end, the Italian Government aimed to insert the principle of gender mainstreaming into various policies and strategies, in particular, in countering a global emergency that at alarming rates is preventing women from enjoying full enjoyment of their fundamental human rights and stymying their empowerment: I refer to violence against women.
Following the signature and ratification of the Convention of the Council of Europe on the prevention of and fight against violence against women and domestic violence (also known as the Istanbul Convention), Italy drafted a special Plan of Action against sexual and gender-based violence that, once adopted, will pursue the goal of preventing the phenomenon of violence against women through multiple action in various fields, including: public information and awareness-raising campaigns; promoting in the schools the proper relationship between the sexes as well as anti-violence units in textbooks; the expansion of antiviolence centers and assistance services to victims of gender-based violence and stalking; specialized training of the workers, data collection, and the configuration of a system of governance of the phenomenon between the different levels of government on the national territory.
Let me underline that the Plan was developed through a collaboration among the main Ministries and with the contribution of civil society organizations engaged in the fight against violence, and the anti-violence centers.
Italy assigns a priority value to gender equality. And it is for this reason that, in the current configuration of the Government, the Prime Minister elected to keep for himself competency over the equal opportunities portfolio. This was a powerful decision, a change in direction from the past, but also a clear signal that gender equality must necessarily be at the center of all the government’s policies and actions, to create a GOVERNMENT that truly embodies equal opportunities.