20 Dec 2017

Austria substitutes women’s agenda with conservative family policy

Just how much the new government misunderstands the problems of women is evident in their program. Women’s rights are now part of the agenda of the Ministry of Family Affairs.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Austria substitutes women’s agenda with conservative family policy - NewsMavens
Family. 1950s. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

politics, children, women's issues

The turquoise-blue coalition has presented its program for the following legislative period. In the 182-page-long document, titled "Together for our Austria”, women are mainly perceived as mothers or migrants in the sense that little attention is dedicated to their problems in other areas of social life. Hence, for example, violence prevention is treated primarily in the context of integration and not domestic abuse.

In the chapter “Women”, the ÖVP and the FPÖ elaborate on the subject:

"The distinct features of both sexes provide an added value to society. The differences between men and women are an integral part of social life and recognizing it is intrinsically linked to human dignity."

Instead of suggesting effective measures against inequality and advocating economic independence of women, the coalition propagates outdated ideas. The image of a family promoted by the government is at odds with social reality. Der STANDARD editor, Beate Hausbichler, criticizes it in her current blog entry:

"The chapters of the turquoise-blue program dedicated to women are disturbing. In a rhetorical trick, sexual violence is linked to migration, suggesting that violence against women is an ‘imported’ problem.

In addition, there is a strong emphasis on the 'job' of having a family. The phrase ‘husband and wife’ is omnipresent in the program, while the institution of marriage for all is completely ignored."

The new government is preoccupied with pregnant women -- a particularly threatening sign to Hausbichler. She recalls the election program of the FPÖ, which stressed "excessively high" abortion rates and “worryingly low” birth rates. FPÖ strongly advocated "taking care of planned abortions and supporting pregnant women in difficult situations".

This desire is now reflected in the government’s program, which promises “to assist pregnant women financially and psychologically in the situations of conflict or emergency”. It also suggests mandatory counselling and time to reflect upon one's choice before a woman undergoes abortion.

"They are treating women like little kids who have to be guided towards the right decision because they are unable to think independently,” Hausbichler comments.

Der Standard editor, Colette M. Schmidt, also analyzed the chapter "Women" of the governmental program. Her conclusion is that:

“It almost exclusively focuses on mothers -- an especially worrying perspective in 2017, a year that so clearly proved how desperately we need real gender policy."

Details from the story:

  • The turquoise-blue coalition has unveiled its program titled "Together for our Austria".
  • In the chapter “Women”, the ÖVP and the FPÖ reproduce a collage of anachronistic notions on gender. "The distinct features of both sexes provide an added value to society. The differences between men and women are an integral part of social life and recognizing it is intrinsically linked to human dignity," the document reads.
  • The five main slogans of the turquoise-blue women's policy are: 
    • "Equal pay for work of equal value" (yet the term “income gap” does not occur once)
    • "No conflict between work and family life"
    • "Social security - even in old age"
    • “Women's health"
    • “Violence prevention and the integration of women"
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