According to the World Health Organisation, health represents ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ Both biological differences and gender-related socioeconomic determinants are important in health and have a different impact on women and men and on their access to health care. In Europe, discriminatory gender roles still compromise the health of women and girls and, in turn, affect families and communities. Furthermore, healthcare providers and advocates are increasingly recognising devastating physical and mental health effects of domestic violence globally. Despite the progress that the EU has made in terms of raising public awareness, there is still a need to ensure the rights and trust of victims in institutions protecting their rights.

The Council of Europe has endorsed universality, access to quality care, equity, and solidarity as common values and principles underpinning the health systems of the EU Member States. However, certain marginalised groups, such as people living with HIV, the LGBT community or sex workers are still 'hard to reach' for health services. Reducing health inequalities, among which gender and inclusion of vulnerable groups are recognised as determinants should, therefore, be one of the priorities of health systems in Europe.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right (SRHR) is one of the most controversial topics in our society.  In 2013, the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) of the European Parliament presented the Estrela Report, totalling nearly 90 recommendations and opinions on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The report, which was later rejected by the Parliament, called for access to safe and legal abortion, non-discrimination, and the right to access health care and sexual education. There is a need to address the range of barriers women can face in accessing health services, which consequently prevents them from fully utilising their fundamental right to health.

This timely International Symposium continues the debate on how to work towards an EU-wide policy framework on gender equality and non-discriminatory access to health care. It provides a key platform for the discussion of a better European regulatory framework aimed at strengthening prevention, protection and inclusion. The Symposium will support the exchange of ideas and best practices and encourage delegates to engage in thought-provoking topical debate whilst sharing best practices and lessons learned.

Delegates will:

  • Share comparative knowledge on gender-based discrimination and barriers to women's health
  • Exchange best practices on gender-specific health policies and campaigns across Europe
  • Explore innovative solutions for effective prevention and treatment of women’s health
  • Assess the health needs of vulnerable groups, such as people living with HIV and sex workers 
  • Gain insights into existing risk factors for victims of domestic violence
  • Delineate a comprehensive strategy for Europe and provide recommendations for future initiatives