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Intersectionality to the rescue? A cross-national analysis of equal opportunities policies and tools in four national contexts

Conference contribution
Authors Maria Edström
Eva-Maria Svensson
Barbara Bagilhole
Nicky Lefeuvre
Published in 8th European Feminist Research Conference, Budapest, 17-20 May 2012
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Law
Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research
Language en
Keywords gender equality, intersectionality, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, France, Discrimination act.
Subject categories Law, Other Social Sciences


Despite a common legal framework within EU (and partly also in EFTA) there are differences in national legislation when it comes to gender equality. In Great Britain and Sweden there is no longer separate legislation for equal opportunities. Instead there is a joint Discrimination Act and joint Discrimination Ombudsman encompassing all specifically defined discrimination grounds. In France and Norway there is still a separate legislation, but in Norway there is also a joint Ombudsman. What are the impacts of these different paths for dealing with discrimination in Europe for gender equality? Is gender equality strengthened or the contrary, does a joint discrimination legislation make the discrimination protection and the active measures less efficient? This paper aims to map the development of gender equality in Europe by comparing the different strategies of mainstreaming discrimination in four countries; France, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden. What are the current measures to promote and protect gender equality and how is gender equality related to other grounds for discrimination? Gender mainstreaming as an equality instrument has been encouraged by the UN and EU and since the mid 90-ies. The parallel processes towards joint legislation on discrimination are based on the insight that there are layers of discrimination that demand to be addressed. This is also what feminist theories on intersectionality is emphasising when they argue that different power structures such as age, class and ethnicity interact with gender. Intersectionality could be a way of strengthening gender mainstreaming. But there is also a risk that gender equality is forgotten when other discrimination grounds are focused.

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