THE BLOG

Do the Four Countries Which Founded International Women's Day No Longer Need It?

07/03/2014 17:53 GMT | Updated 07/05/2014 10:59 BST

Tomorrow is International Women's Day. Over 1,250 events are being held worldwide, with over 400 in the UK.

India, has over 70 events, and Nigeria has 25: two countries which don't score particularly highly when gender equality is measured. Even Saudi Arabia has 1 event.

So why do Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, the four countries which founded International Women's Day in 1911 have a total between them of only 7 events?

Is the reason that they have not organised events this year that they are simply beyond feminist campaigning? Are these four countries in Western Europe havens for gender parity?

Irrespective of how many events they are holding (maybe they simply have not registered them, or are marking the day in different way) can we at least infer that as founding countries they are the most progressive?

When we look at data from the World Economic Forum on global gender equality these countries all rank in the top 20. The results take into account several key indicators, such as the percentage of women and men in part-time and full-time employment, the percentages of female managers, and the percentage of women with bank accounts.

The data is certainly comprehensive and very useful. We can confidently imagine that these four founding countries are utopias for female empowerment, career development and financial independence.

Can we then infer that they no longer need International Women's Day?

Let's take this year's chosen theme for the European Parliament: "Preventing violence against women - a challenge for all", the almost same theme that they chose in 2010, and which the United Nations decided on for their theme in 2013.

This week a report came out from the FRA, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which found in its results that 33% of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since they were 15 years old.

In the same report 22% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner.

Looking at our four founding countries in more depth, Germany is slightly higher than the average, with 35% of women having experienced physical and/or sexual violence, and Denmark has the alarming percentage of 55% of women.

Austria is slightly below average in general, however for partner violence in Austria (and Poland), compared with other EU Member States, respondents were less likely to say that they have been victims of partner violence, but in over 60 % of cases the most serious incident of partner violence had resulted in injuries.

Switzerland, not being in the EU, was not included in the FRA report, however a survey from 2004 found that in Switzerland, 39% of women have experienced an act of physical or sexual violence committed against them by a man or men at least once in their adult life.

Denmark also has very worrying legislation on rape, which has been repeatedly criticised by Amnesty International as violating international human rights. In Germany marital rape was only made illegal in 1997, one of the last countries in the Western world.

We also cannot forget the two extreme cases of Josef Fritzl and of Wolfgang Priklopil in Austria which emerged in recent years and shocked the world. In Switzerland there is no national women's helpline, which means it does not meet recommendations made by the Council of Europe on human rights.

The purpose of looking at these four countries is not to undermine any of the previous or ongoing amazing work done on women's rights in these countries by campaigners, activists and those working on the ground with sufferers of physical and/or sexual violence.

Instead it is to highlight that today more than ever we need International Women's Day. These are the four founding countries and they repeatedly feature in the top 20 countries for gender equality.

However, as we have seen, equality in the workplace and public sphere is only part of the picture. When violence against women, which occurs largely in the private domain, still prevails, we cannot hail any European country as being beyond feminist campaign.