Austria is a signatory to CEDAW which it ratified in 1982. It adopted CEDAW and its optional protocol allowing an individual to file a complaint to CEDAW on an alleged violation of her rights, in September 2000.
It does have independently of its obligations to CEDAW equality legislation which guarantees constitutional rights to equality which was enacted by Article 7 of the Federal Constitutional Law which is a development of Article 2 of the Basic Law on the General Rights of Nationals. This Article 2 legislates that allnationals are equal before the law.(emphasis added to distinguish quote)
Article 7 explains the principle of equality, specifying equality as being without prejudice to birth, gender, disability, religion and so on. It is in paragraph 2 of this Article that the constitution legislates for an obligation upon the state to seek a de facto equality by taking any necessary measures to so enable.
The most far reaching area of equality legislation is in the field of employment legislation which affects both the private and public sectors. It is in the Equal Treatment Law that CEDAW is specifically mentioned where unequal treatment is admissible, on temporary means and is legal, in order to bring about a de facto equality amongst the sexes.
This legislation however does not address the root causes of inequality between the sexes particularly in the aspect of salaries.
This inequality is in reality rooted in the education system and societal perceptions of gender roles, which the education system is currently trying to address. It is also on the other hand a positive measure, that of providing enhanced benefits to parents of babies and young children who are not working, which causes to some extent the inequality of opportunity to women as they have a skills and experience deficit on returning to the employment market.
Other aspects of gender equality and positive governmental participation is in the healthcare field where women have access to a wide range of resources which allow a greater freedom of choice in health and social care as well as information.
Another aspect of gender sensitive legislation is in the matter of domestic violence. Here Austria has enacted laws which dispense with the need for lengthy court proceedings in a situation where the police can provide a report. This speeds up and makes it easier for women to seek remedies in enforcing their rights to remain in their home without the fear of harm or actual attack. The domestic violence legislation here is very similar in actual content to that of the United Kingdom. What is especially important is that there is a recognition that violence either psychological or physical can emanate from other persons in a familial relationship with the victim, not just the spouse or partner.
On the other hand, although it makes provision for a complainant to begin proceedings herself, there is much more emphasis on the role and powers of the police to commence emergency action themselves.
The legislation in Austria and governmental projects is intended to be in line with its international commitments to promoting gender equality. Statistically, Austria with is 20 per cent rate of women suffering domestic violence and gender inequality in the employment marketplace, still has much ground to cover to overcome the fundamental cause of gender equality.