Gender Equality in the Case Law of the European Court of Justice

2 / 2009
Agata Brzezińska


The principle of gender equality forms a part of the EU’s social policy and serves equally men and women. So far, fourteen directives concerning gender equality have been adopted in the EU, with the New Equal Treatment Directive as the latest one. The EU has developed different models to promote gender equality: equal treatment, positive action and most recently gender mainstreaming. The equal treatment model is primarily concerned with formal equality and it unfortunately prevails in the ECJ’s rulings. Indeed, this paper argues that so far, the ECJ has not managed to develop a firm and consistent case law on gender equality, nor to stretch it coherently to positive action and gender mainstreaming. It seems that in spite of some progress in promoting the position of women, the ECJ’s case law has recently taken a step backwards with its conservative judgments in e.g. the Cadman case.

Overall, this paper aims at summing up and evaluating the most important cases of the ECJ on gender equality.

About the author

Agata Brzezińska has graduated from the Law and Administration Faculty of Warsaw University and holds an LL.M degree in International and European Law from the Institute for European Studies (IES) at Vrije Unversiteit Brussel. Brzezińska has worked on EU legal matters in the European Parliament and in an international law firm in Warsaw. As of September 2009, she has been working in the European Commission. The viewpoints presented here are her personal opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions she is or has been working for.