Gender impact assessments have been required by law in the Basque Country since 2005, in the framework of the Equal opportunities between women and men Act. Furthermore, the province of Gipuzkoa, within the Basque Country, has also developed its own gender Equality Act, which regulates in detail the gender impact assessment process.
Gender impact assessment was applied for the first time in 2007 by the Basque government, when the assessment procedure was established. Since then, reports have been issued on more than 500 decrees and laws. After 7 years, gender impact assessment is a consolidated practice very strongly embedded within the Basque regional government.
Subsequently, the Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa (government of the Basque province of Gipuzkoa) developed a more tailored procedure for gender impact assessments, which was approved at the senior political level in 2011. Since then, gender impact assessments have also been carried out at this regional level.
Currently the regional gender equality body keeps an internal register which allows for the follow-up of the number of gender impact reports issued at regional level and the extent to which the execution of gender impact assessments is contributing to the implementation of equality objectives in legislation. Further dissemination of these results will be essential to promote and strengthen the implementation of gender impact assessments, not only in the Basque government, but also in all other Basque administrations, even at local level.
As gender impact assessment is a legal obligation in the Basque Country, policymakers must comply with this obligation and the legal units within the regional government are responsible for its enforcement. The responsibility for drawing up gender impact assessments falls on civil servants responsible for formulating policies and laws in each one of the departments of both the Basque government and the Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa. Civil servants are responsible for analysing how women and men would be affected and they must decide which measures must be implemented in order to achieve equitable and equivalent effects on both women and men and on gender equality.
Additionally, there are gender equality units in each of the Basque government’s departments. Those units provide gender expertise and technical advice helping civil servants to develop gender impact assessments. In the case of the Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa, technical advice is provided by the central gender equality body, while the creation of gender equality units in each department is already envisaged.
The gender impact assessment procedure also involves the equality body in both cases, which has to verify that the gender impact assessment reports are drawn up in compliance with current legislation. To this end, the equality body must issue a prescriptive report which also allows for suggestions for improvement.
This procedure is a valuable opportunity to discover potential negative gender impacts arising from the proposed legislation, as well as to make recommendations that will make it possible to improve their impact while the laws are still being processed. Experience shows that the more specific and robust the recommendations, including data and legal mandates, the greater the possibility that they will eventually be included into the law in question.
Both the Basque government and the Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa have their own guidelines, which develop the legal mandate of the Basque Law for Gender Equality.
In the case of the Basque government, apart from the guidelines, an impact report template has also been developed. It consists of three steps with a total of 12 questions:
- Overview of the draft or proposed administrative act
- Assessment of the foreseen impact in terms of gender equality
- Measures to eliminate inequalities and promote equality between women and men
For its part, the guidelines of the government of Gipuzkoa propose a procedure for gender impact assessment that consists of three steps:
- Identification of the gender relevance
- Direct or indirect impact on people and their access to resources
- No impact on people and their access to resources
- Gender Impact Assessment
- Sex-disaggregated data
- Identification of inequalities between women and men
- Analysis of those inequalities from a gender perspective
- Assessment of the foreseen impact in terms of gender equality
- Proposals to ensure that the policy or law will have a positive impact on gender equality
The Basque government has also adopted a standardised impact report template, which has facilitated the methodical, ordered and homogenous execution of gender impact assessment reports by all agents involved.
Finally, it is important to highlight that specific gender impact assessment training courses have been developed, taking into account the fact that most civil servants do not have gender expertise and thus they do not know how to assess gender impact. In addition, the regional gender equality body is preparing a series of sector-specific manuals in order to facilitate the execution of gender impact assessments in individual sectors. There are currently several guides, specific to the following fields:
- Public safety
- Research and innovation
- Transport and mobility
Strengths and weaknesses
Gender impact assessments form part of the processing procedure for all legislation in the Basque Country, and they have proven to be a useful and effective tool for ensuring the systematic and effective incorporation of the gender perspective. The assessments which have been carried out show that there has been a significant increase in legislation that includes gender equality measures.
The factors which may have contributed to this progressive application and improvement of gender impact assessments in the Basque Country are:
- The requirement by law to carry out the assessments
- The involvement of all those people who devise and introduce policies and laws
- The availability of training, guidance, and consultancy resources
- The provided technical advice and follow up from gender equality units
However, since gender impact assessment is obligatory, there is a risk that it will be seen simply as an administrative obligation. If it is perceived in such a way, it may actually prove to be counterproductive. To avoid this, efforts might be taken to persuade policymakers and civil servants of its absolute effectiveness and to convince them that it is a tool with huge potential for improving the quality of policies and legislation at all levels.