The CID Fraen an Gender, a women’s rights NGO that also manages a library in Luxembourg City, last week presented a series of measures in 29 different areas--from education and labour to healthcare, foreign policy and even public transport--that it wants parties to tackle in the run-up to the October national elections and beyond.
“Not a lot has happened,” since the CID published its recommendations for the 2018 elections, said Claire Schadeck, policy officer at the interest group. “There is a lot of awareness-raising, a lot of campaigns. And that’s good. But if you look at draft laws or concrete things that lead to real change, not a lot has happened.”
The group sent a survey of 30 questions to the country’s biggest political parties, publishing the answers at the end of last year. Based on this document, the CID Fraen an Gender developed its list of recommendation.
“It became clear that on several points parties didn’t have a strategy to implement gender-sensitive policies, and also sometimes didn’t even understand why it’s relevant or what that means.”
While some of the demands are long-standing and well-established--from closing the gender pay gap to fighting domestic violence--others at first glance appear to have little to do with gender politics, such as public transport.
“I also had to ask myself, where is the link,” said Schadeck. Not only are women exposed to different types of harassment on public transport, but they also use public transport differently. “Women don’t go straight from home to work and back. They pick up groceries, fetch a child, look in on an elderly person they are taking care of.”
Public transport isn’t adapted to this, says Schadeck. With many women working part-time they also face less frequent services during off-peak hours. Pavements aren’t wide enough for parents with prams, traffic lights aren’t green for pedestrians long enough. Streets could be lighted better for improved visibility. “There is also violence in places that are well-lighted, but it’s about feeling safe.”
Improving street lighting or setting up emergency call terminals in some areas would be quick fixes.
Recognising endometriosis as a disease with the CNS could also be easily achieved and would give better data on how many women suffer from the condition and could help provide a better overview of treatment and information gathering on symptoms and remedies in patients.
Police and justice officials should be better trained in intervening in domestic violence cases and discriminatory content should be removed from schoolbooks. “We have studies that analyse Luxembourg schoolbooks for gender stereotypes and there are recommendations,” says Schadeck. While updating these books is tied to a new edition going to print, a manual for staff together with training to discuss the stereotypes depicted could already be supplied.
Luxembourg could also adopt France’s model of declaring femicide--the killing of a woman because of her gender--as a separate offence from murder in its penal code. “Over and over, we get this feedback that it’s difficult to define and measure. But in other countries it’s done. It has a name and it’s punished.”
There are also more systemic problems that the CID wants policy makers to tackle, such as fixing the housing market, which leaves single parents--often women--outpriced and can also prevent women from leaving abusive relationships as women’s shelters are overcrowded and have long waiting lists.
In these demands, the NGO also wants to keep an intersectional perspective. “You can apply this to every area. In the housing market, a Black single mother has a harder time finding a flat than a White woman. We’re trying to raise awareness for this in politics and it’s clear that many parties haven’t understood this approach.”
Often, politicians say that everyone must be treated the same, said Schadeck. “They say this from a humanist approach; no one should be advantaged or disadvantaged, which is a nice thought in principle. But in the reality we live in, where some groups are subjected to discrimination more than others, that’s simply not enough. There are to be specific measures to combat the discrimination of these people.”
The CID Fraen an Gender is also throwing its support behind reducing working hours for better work-life balance but also a tax reform to reduce the poverty risk of single parent families.
And it wants more representation in politics, not only of women but more generally of under-represented groups. “As a minister, you’re in a very different position than a single mother in the cleaning sector,” said Schadeck, adding that politicians all too often leave their blind spots unchallenged.
“We need to continue”
“It’s the responsibility of politicians to call out problems, to say what’s not okay. So often things are glossed over.” During the pandemic, for example, Luxembourg reported no increase in domestic violence interventions by police. “The message was that everything was under control,” said Schadeck. “That’s not true.”
Not only is there a lack of data, but what data there is doesn’t reflect that women were stuck in their homes with their abusers, with women’s shelters full to the brim and a curfew in place. “Where were they supposed to go,” asked Schadeck. “And this isn’t talked about. Admitting a mistake doesn’t mean admitting failure. It means recognising reality and developing measures. And that’s missing.”
Acknowledging that things are worse in other countries also doesn’t absolve Luxembourg from doing its bit. “There are gaps to fill. We made 29 demands,” said Schadeck.
The fact we’re here today is because people before us were committed to this cause. So we must continue.
“There’s this idea whether it’s not enough now. But why should it be enough when so many things still aren’t okay? When our pension gap is still 43%, second place in the EU. No, it’s not enough when women are still experiencing violence and we don’t have enough room in shelters, in a rich country like Luxembourg. I don’t see why we should stop raising awareness. There’s this conviction that it’s okay for men to have what they have, and women should pipe down.”
Aged 27, Schadeck said her awareness and fight for gender equality began relatively recently. And while the young activist already sees the frustration of making the same demands time and again, she said she remains motivated. “My grandmother is 82. She was divorced at a time when this really stigmatised women. She still has the strength to talk about this. That inspires me. The fact we’re here today is because people before us were committed to this cause. So we must continue.”