Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of European Union (EU) law that applies to all aspects of social life. The EU has adopted a two-pronged approach to gender equality, combining specific measures with gender mainstreaming.
In this framework, gender impact assessment is the basic method for the governmental structures to use for gender mainstreaming. As part of Indicator 3 on Gender Mainstreaming, introduced by the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2006, it defines the aspects to measure as the progress of Member States in the area of institutional mechanisms and gender mainstreaming.
The gender impact assessment is one of the methods for gender mainstreaming. It should be used in the very early stage of any policymaking, i.e. when designing it. The GIA is an ex ante assessment1 and this implies the integration of a gender analysis at the ‘define’ stage of the policy cycle. The aim is to achieve a significant impact not only on the policy design but also on its planning, in order to ensure adequate equality outcomes.
Gender impact assessment has been defined as an ex ante evaluation, analysis or assessment of a law, policy or programme that makes it possible to identify, in a preventative way, the likelihood of a given decision having negative consequences for the state of equality between women and men. The central question of the GIA is: Does a law, policy or programme reduce, maintain or increase the gender inequalities between women and men?
The European Commission defines gender impact assessment as follows:
‘Gender impact assessment is the process of comparing and assessing, according to gender relevant criteria, the current situation and trend with the expected development resulting from the introduction of the proposed policy’.
‘Gender impact assessment is the estimation of the different effects (positive, negative or neutral) of any policy or activity implemented to specific items in terms of gender equality’.
The assessment involves a dual-pronged approach: the current gender-related position in relation to the policy under consideration, and the projected impacts on women and men once the policy has been implemented. It is important that the assessment is structured, i.e. systematic, analytical and documented.
The final aim of the gender impact assessment is to improve the design and the planning of the policy under consideration, in order to prevent a negative impact on gender equality and to strengthen gender equality through better designed, transformative legislation and policies. A primary objective is to adapt the policy to make sure that any discriminatory effects are either removed or mitigated.
Beyond avoiding negative effects, a GIA can also be used in a more transformative way as a tool for defining gender equality objectives and formulating the policy so as to proactively promote gender equality.
The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)’s Gender Impact Assessment Toolkit can be downloaded here.