The increased focus on the role of men in relation to gender equality work reflects the move towards more ‘gender’ focused strategies, including gender mainstreaming strategies, and away from a focus on sex-based discrimination. ‘Gender equality’ as a concept identifies from the start that socially constructed gender roles play a crucial role in shaping women’s - and men’s - access to rights, resources, and opportunities. Abandoning essentialist notions of ‘sex’ in favour of a socially constructed ‘gender’ was seen as a step forward in feminist understanding.
Although this move can be seen as progress, there are some important questions that still need to be addressed in relation to ‘gender equality’ as a strategic concept. One of the problems with gender focused polices for achieving equality between women and men is that it has often meant excluding ‘sex’ as a concept, and the policy reaction has been to marginalize, or even make redundant women-centred equality policies . Although the original intention was not to abandon these policies, but to use a ‘dual strategy’ of specific measures/programmes and gender mainstreaming, recent shifts in policies show that women-centred policies are less accepted in the policy process. There is a tendency of policy-makers to decrease funding for women-centred projects and strategies, and transfer funding to male-centred actions – in the name of gender equality. It is important to keep in mind that in many EU countries, the lack of basic services for women and girls is still a reality, and that governments continuously fail to recognise the need for specific services and projects for women. Parallel investments in women and girls must therefore be ensured.
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