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European Equality Law Network

European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination

Opening session & keynote speech

Linda Senden, professor of EU Law at Utrecht University and specialist coordinator for the gender equality strand, welcomed everyone on behalf of the network to the first legal seminar in a hybrid format. She then gave the floor to Commissioner Helena Dalli.

Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, opened the legal seminar and thanked the legal network for the valuable support they provide to the Commission’s work. She highlighted the importance of the network’s contributions to the Commission’s recent proposals to strengthen equality bodies.

Furthermore, she especially thanked the network for their valuable input regarding the Directive on gender balance on company boards and the Proposal for a Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence, as well as the implementation and transposition of the Work-Life Balance Directive.

Keynote speech from Ruth Rubio Marín: Is European equality constitutionalism obsolete?

Ruth Rubio Marín is Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Seville as well as Professor on the Hauser Global Law School Program at New York University. She also holds the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights at the International University of Andalucía.

Ruth Rubio Marín started her keynote speech on the topic ‘Is European equality constitutionalism obsolete?’ with reference to the global cultural backlash in response to women’s and LGBTIQ+ transnational mobilisation. These movements rely heavily on four different tactics: First, the tactic of constitutional entrenchment, or the modification of constitutions; furthermore, the tactics of constitutional interpretation and constitutional co-option to serve anti-gender purposes and finally the tactic of constitutional pre-emption, which means perceiving the constitution as prevailing over conflicting human rights norms.

She then posed the question whether European constitutionalism could counter this phenomenon. In this context, she noted that there are examples of participatory and transformative forms of egalitarian constitutionalism, which emphasise the importance of women as decision-makers and the significance of intersectionality, as well as expanding equality from the public to the private sphere. However, she also highlighted that countries in Europe are for the most part still stuck in the paradigm of inclusive egalitarian constitutionalism, which builds on formal equality between women and men.

Likewise, turning to European Primary Law, she observed that while some notions of substantive equality are embraced, for example through the Treaties of Amsterdam and Lisbon as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, many limitations remain. In this context, she criticised, for instance, the limited competences of the European Union and problematic unanimity rules for decision-making, the under-inclusive understanding of forms of subordination, ignoring for example considerations of intersectionality, and the omission of certain rights, such as reproductive health.

She concluded by calling for a new constitutional basis in Europe, supported by participatory processes. 

Response by David Oppenheimer

David Oppenheimer is Faculty Co-Director of the Pro Bono Program at Berkeley Law School and Director of the Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-discrimination Law.

In response to Ruth Rubio Marín’s view of European Constitutionalism, David Oppenheimer turned the participants’ attention to the situation in the United States of America by presenting some important and highly problematic decisions made by the US Supreme Court on equality and non-discrimination issues. He concluded by warning the participants of even further discriminatory decisions in the future.



Download the video: MP4 format or WebM format.

Powerpoint Keynote speech 

Powerpoint Response David Oppenheimer

Cases cited by David Oppenheimer



Go to the website of Human European Consultancy
Go to the website of Utrecht University
Go to the website of the Migration Policy Group

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