Gender impact assessment is legislated in Catalonia and the law requires that a gender perspective must be included in every law approved by the regional government. It also established that reports submitted along with new bills, projects of ordinances and decrees shall incorporate a gender impact assessment of the measures included in the regulation.
In 2001, a governmental agreement was signed, further regulating gender impact assessment implementation by establishing that the Catalan Women’s Institute would be in charge of elaborating the gender impact assessment, understood as an ex ante evaluation.
These provisions have also been by Law 26/2010, on the legal regime and the procedure of the public administrations of Catalonia.This provision states that gender impact assessment is mandatory for all laws as well as for those decrees and regulations that innovate with regard to existing norms.
Catalonia has developed a fully externalised and centralised model for carrying out gender impact assessment, in which the Catalan Women’s Institute, as the central gender equality body at the regional level, is the sole institution in charge of performing the impact assessment.
At the beginning of this highly consolidated process, through which nearly 3000 legal norms have been scrutinised from a gender perspective since 2001, the department (regional ministry) proposing a new norm decides whether or not it must be accompanied by a gender impact assessment. In case of decrees and regulations, the department determines whether the proposal represents an innovation and, consequently, whether it must be assessed from a gender perspective. If required, plans, reports and other types of policy documents can also be assessed by the Catalan Women’s Institute.
The legal services of the competent department send the Catalan Women’s Institute a brief justification of the necessity of elaborating a gender impact assessment of the draft norm. From this first step, the Institute has 10 working days to send back a response, including a gender impact assessment. This is further assessed by legal experts of the department initiating the process, to check that the gender impact assessment is consistent with the existing legal framework.
Catalonia approved an official guideline for the elaboration of gender impact assessment, in 2005.
Subsequently, the general guidelines (2009) for impact assessment within the Catalonian government included gender impact assessment as well.
The official guidelines for gender impact assessment provide information with regard to several key elements:
- the definition of gender mainstreaming as an approach to promoting gender equality
- the legal framework with regard to gender equality
- the definition, uses and goals of gender impact assessment
It also contains the proposed basic structure for gender impact assessment and a brief practical example of a gender impact assessment.
The guidelines to carry out the gender impact assessment set out five basic questions which need to be responded to and disaggregated by sex:
- Who does what?
- Who has access to what (resources, services...)?
- Who exerts control over what?
- What differences are there, and why?
- What are the key factors influencing the gender impact?
Finally, and since 2010, the Catalan Women’s Institute has developed a standardised template applicable to all gender impact assessments. The main sections are the following:
- History (presents the norm)
- General proposal (revisies existing policies and ssesses sexist langugage)
- Legal basis (existing legal framework)
- Conclusions (suggestions)
Concerning the follow-up of gender impact assessments, the central gender equality body issued an evaluation report of gender impact assessment implementation from 2008 to 2011. An ex post evaluation helped to reveal some interesting elements, such as the type of suggestions made by the equality machinery or the degree of acceptance by department.
In 2013, dedicated software was put in place with a view to facilitating the evaluation of gender impact assessments performed in the region and increasing transparency and accountability. It will collect the work performed by the gender equality body (number of gender impact assessments, number and type of suggestions) as well as the contribution of each department (number and type of suggestions accepted).
Strenghts and weaknesses
Catalonia opted to legislate and regulate gender impact assessment, thus providing this practice with a strong legal basis. In addition, Catalonia established gender impact assessment as an exclusive competence of the Women’s Institute attached to the regional government as concerns the drafting of laws, ordinances and policy plans.
This ‘externalisation’, with respect to policy areas where gender impact assessments are performed, has enabled the central gender equality machinery at the regional level to:
- develop a stable and exhaustive methodology
- perform a very large amount of gender impact assessments over the past 10 years
- ensure that quality control is somehow integrated in the process of gender impact assessment drafting
However, in practical terms, the envisaged policy departments proposing a new decree or regulation decide whether or not the law implies an innovation, and consequently, whether or not a gender impact assessment must be conducted.
This centralised model can have adverse effects, since it does not encourage each different department and unit to take responsibility for integrating the gender perspective into their policies from the very beginning. The model itself might be hindering the effectiveness of gender impact assessments as a tool for gender mainstreaming.
Furthermore, this model may also hinder the quality and thoroughness of the gender analyses conducted. Even though the central gender equality body provides its expertise in gender equality, a deep knowledge of the specific field is also needed. This is actually the added value that the officials responsible for drafting laws and policies could provide when conducting a gender impact assessment. Otherwise, one consequence might be that, at some point, the usefulness of gender impact assessments performed by the staff of the gender equality structure may no longer be recognised.
In fact, specific knowledge on gender issues related to the policy area needs to be built up in the respective departments, so as to be really effective. That is why a change of roles could perhaps be considered, whereby the gender equality machinery could, for example, provide technical advice as well as take on a qualitative monitoring function.