Article by Imogen Calderwood  and Erica Sanchez

Europe’s leading human rights organisation has just adopted the first-ever international legal instrument to stop sexism.

The Council of Europe — which includes 47 member states, 28 of which are members of the European Union — has officially recognised that sexism is “widespread and prevalent in all sectors and all societies,” and is now calling on states to stop it.

The council adopated a recommendation to prevent and combat sexism last week.

These recommendations are essentially a list of guidelines for member states to be exploring within their own societies. They are intended as a springboard to identify and define an issue, and lay out some ideas about how member states can now be tackling those issues.

A very significant part of the recent recommendation includes what is reportedly the first-ever internationally agreed upon definition of the term “sexism.”

And here it is! Sexism is defined as: “Any act, gesture, visual representation, spoken or written words, practice, or behaviour based upon the idea that a person or a group of persons is inferior because of their sex, which occurs in the public or private sphere, whether online or offline.”

The recommendation also stressed that sexism is a manifestation of “historically unequal power relations” between men and women — which leads to discrimination and prevents the full advancement of women in society.

It adds that sexism is “widespread and prevalent in all sectors and all societies and … sexism and sexist behaviours are rooted in and reinforce gender stereotypes.”

A particularly interesting point — especially for anyone who’s been accused of being “too sensitive” when it comes to calling out everyday sexism — is that the recommendation makes the link between sexism and violence against women and girls.

Acts of everyday sexism, it says, are “part of a continuum of violence that create a climate of intimidation, fear, discrimination, exclusion, and insecurity which limits opportunities and freedom.” …

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