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Gender-political situation in Portugal


Legal situation:


Scientific institutions and sources:

Brief description and evaluation
Given the limited source material, it is only possible to offer a limited statement on the country’s gender-political situation. Information about civil society actors and activities is few and far between. The main governmental gender actors are two commissions, one for citizenship and gender equality, and another for equality in the areas of labour, employment and training (the latter with the involvement of the social partners). The commissions aside, there are very few signs of gender equality policy having been institutionalised at governmental level. The State Secretary for Gender Equality is the representative for this issue.

The former, even bigger chink in the government’s gender equality policy in terms of the labour market/gainful employment of women (esp. the work-life balance and equal pay) is still present, but other gender equality policy issues have now also come to the fore, e.g. political participation, domestic violence and gender-equal ways of life.

Existing legislation and national action plans ensure that gender equality policy is well safeguarded and the objectives of gender mainstreaming entrenched. It is worth noting that, on a European scale, the country’s labour market anti-discrimination laws incorporated in the new Labour Code (Código do Trabalho) are far-reaching. It is also striking that gender equality policy in Portugal has not been squeezed out by a general anti-discrimination policy but gender discrimination still appears to top the agenda.

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Legal situation

Gender equality law
Portugal was one of the first countries in the UN to sign the 1980 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Law on Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment of Women and Men in the Areas of Work, Employment and Training (1979):

Ban on discrimination and promotion of equal opportunities and the equal treatment of women and men in the areas of work, employment and training.

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Anti-discrimination law
Labour Code/Código Do Trabalho

The Labour Code (Legislative Decree No. 99/2003 + No. 35/2004) prohibits gender-based discrimination on the labour market; implementation of the EU Directive on Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation (the catalogue of grounds for discrimination includes political views and trade union membership). The Labour Code (Legislative Decree No. 18/2004) also prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity or race.

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Anti-discrimination law on goods and services
Legislative Decree No 14/2008 entrenches the ban on and an imposition of sanctions for gender-based discrimination when accessing goods and services and thus implements the EU Directive accordingly.

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Laws on quotas, above all in the political and economic fields.
Since 2006, statutory 1/3 quota for all party lists for European, national and local elections.

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Other laws/statutory regulations and government programmes
Constitution: 1976, reformed in 1997 and 2005;

Excerpt from the fundamental rights catalogue of the Constitution Article13: Right to Equality

“(…) reinforces the equality principle: Article 9 now identifies promoting equality between women and men as one of the State’s fundamental responsibilities and explicitly authorises the adoption of positive action measures. It recognises the right of every person, in the framework of the Rights, Liberties and Guarantees, to legal protection against all forms of discrimination (article 26-1), recognises the right for all workers, of either sex, in the framework of their fundamental rights, to organise their work so as to reconcile their professional and family life (article 59-1-b). Its article 109 on the political participation of citizens, states that “the direct and active participation of men and women in political life constitutes the condition and the fundamental instrument to consolidate the democratic system, in line with the law promoting equality in the exercise of civic and political rights and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex in access to political posts.”


  • Legalisation of abortion following a nationwide referendum in 2007
  • Since 2010, equal treatment of same-sex couples in marriage

1. Global Plan For Equality (1997), 2. Global Plan For Equality (2002):

New parity paradigm; integration of EO in school and further education, gender-based statistics, violence, labour market, work-life balance, social security for women and families, health, raising children, science, culture; double and/or integrated strategy of GM and subsidies policy, strengthening of equality networks with NGOs and social partners (participation of civil society); other issues: education and culture, reconciliation of private, social, professional and family life aspects, power and political participation, business and employment, health, violence, budgetary policy and social security, living and environmental conditions, poverty and social exclusion, media and cooperation

National Action Plan for Gender Equality – Citizenship and Gender:

(III Plano Nacional para a Igualdade - Cidadania e Género) (2007-2010)

Establishes five strategic areas of intervention:

  • Gender perspective in every field of political activity as an instrument of good governance (incl. instatement of a gender equality observatory)
  • Political priorities when implementing gender mainstreaming: education, science and research, economic independence, work-life balance, social integration, health, environment and spatial planning, sport, culture
  • Citizenship and gender (stereotypes, citizenship education, NGOs)
  • Gender-based violence (concretised in the 3rd National Action Plan against Domestic Violence)
  • GM at European and international level and in development cooperation

Its precursor was the National Action Plan for Gender Equality (2003-2006), which specified a systematic implementation of gender mainstreaming in the areas of education, culture, work-life balance, political participation, business and employment, health, violence against women, financial and social policy, quality of life, and environment, poverty and social exclusion, international cooperation and the media.

Other current national action plans and programmes:

  • National Action Plan against Domestic Violence (2007-2010)
  • National Action Plan against Human Trafficking (2007-2010)
  • As well as campaigns against domestic violence and promoting political participation

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Current political discourse
See above: Brief description/evaluation

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NGOs: political parties, civil society organisations
Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights (PPDM - Plataforma Portuguesa para os Direitos das Mulheres, in Portuguese):
The Platform is a social, cultural and humanist NGO that focuses on women’s rights and has no affiliation to any political party, religious institution or government structure or their member organisations. Established in 2004 with the aim of promoting cooperation among NGOs in the field of women’s rights and equality in Portugal and at European/international level (member of the EWL and AFEM). Tasks: research, lobbying, information, training, campaigns. Current issues: campaign for 50/50 parity of women and men in politics (2009), democratic participation, basic rights, EuroMed, peace and security, gender-based violence. Current publication (in Portuguese) on equal opportunities of women and men: Homens e Mulheres em Portugal 2010.

(Founding) members of the Platform include:

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Government, ministries
Portal for Equality (Portal para a Igualdade):
Is the government’s main information portal on the issue of gender equality. All the information on this issue is summarised here: legal situation, action plans, campaigns, competition, conferences, seminars, etc. (in Portuguese).

State Secretary for Gender Equality:
Sits within the Ministry of the Presidency (of the Council of Ministers), currently: Elza Pais; the precursors were: Senior Representative for Gender Equality and Family (1996-1999) and Minister of Gender Equality (within the Prime Minister’s Office) (1999/2000); in addition, individual ministries have ministerial advisors for equality.

Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (Comissão para a Cidadania e Igualdade de Generó):
The current Commission was established under a decree passed in 2007 and succeeded the Commission for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights (since 1991; prior to this, since 1977: Commission on the Status of Women) as well as the structure to combat domestic violence. It is located in the Presidium of the Council of Ministers and sits within the office of the State Secretary for Gender Equality.


  • To devise general and sectoral policies promoting citizenship and gender equality
  • Legislative initiatives and the measures required to implement them in the fields of citizenship, equality for and non-discrimination of women and men, safeguarding of motherhood and fatherhood, work-life balance, combating domestic violence
  • To raise public awareness, communicate best practices, cooperate with NGOs, bestow quality awards for gender equality, non-discrimination, equal participation in business, political, social and family life
  • Public documentation and information centre (since 1975)
  • Annual reports on gender equality in Portugal
  • Publication of monthly magazine “Noticias”
  • Legal aid for victims of discrimination or domestic violence
  • Cooperation with international organisations, implementation of international agreements in these thematic fields

Commission for Gender Equality in Employment and Occupation (Comissão para Igualdade no Trabalho e no Emprego):
The Commission was set up in 1979 with the aim of combating discrimination and promoting gender equality in the areas of work, employment and training in both the public and private sectors. It is a tri-party body comprising representatives of the government and the social partners (two from the employers’ associations and the trade unions respectively). The Commission is located in the Council of Ministers and under the remit of the Ministry of Labour in consultation with the State Secretary for Gender Equality.

Its tasks are to:

  • promote equality for and non-discrimination of women and men in the areas of work, employment and training.
  • safeguard parenthood (motherhood, fatherhood, adoption)
  • promote the work-life balance
  • ombudsman for cases of discrimination, legal opinions and processes, legal advice
  • cooperate with the Office for Occupational Health and Safety
  • commission studies, research work, legal opinions; collect best practice examples
  • award the “Equality is Quality” prize to companies/employers for implementing exemplary steps to promote gender equality (in conjunction with the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality)
  • carry out training courses, campaigns and similar
  • assist in the development and implementation of occupational gender equality plans
  • participate in the preparation and implementation of the National Action Plan for Gender Equality
  • European and international cooperation

Other commissions/representatives:

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Other gender actors
L’AFEM - Association des Femmes de l’Europe Méridionale (available in the languages of the participating countries):

is a European network comprising individuals, organisations and umbrella organisations from Cyprus, Spain, France, Greece, Italy and Portugal. The only organisation from Portugal represented here is the Platform for Women’s Rights; incl. project on the subject of the work-life balance for women and men (legislation and practice). 

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Scientific institutions and sources

Universities and associations
Portuguese Association Of Women’s Studies (Associação Portuguesa de Estudos sobre as Mulheres (APEM), in Portuguese):
The Association of Women’s Studies is a non-profit organisation which seeks to support, promote and encourage women’s studies, feminist studies, gender studies in every area of knowledge. It is a national organisation, which has brought together experts from a variety of scientific and academic fields as well as scientific and academic institutes since 1991. The website also provides an overview of current research projects, events and publications.

Gender and Generation Project of the Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon (in English):
“Taking into account recent social transformations in Portugal, this project aims to investigate gender relations, through the reconstitution of family narratives of three different generations of women and men from two regions of Portugal with very different modernization patterns: Lisbon and Mondim de Basto.”

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Description of state of source material:
The source material is rather poor; only the government commissions and very few NGOs have their own website. The majority of the websites are solely in Portuguese or offer very limited information in English.

Citing of relevant sources:
Internet sources have been cited in context

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This study was conducted by Tanja Berger und Pamela Dorsch and comissioned by the Gunda Werner Institute of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 2010.

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