New gender equality commissioner assumes post (12)

10/5/2015 1:11 PM
Category: Society

Amid controversy surrounding her appointment, the new Estonian gender equality and equal treatment commissioner Liisa Pakosta started work on Monday.

A former IRL MP Pakosta won the contest to find a replacement for Mari-Liis Sepper in summer.

Sepper, who held the post for five years, but decided to leave in order to focus on academic career, became well-known in Estonia, due to her outspoken views on gender pay gap and LGBT rights.

Pakosta is taking over at the time when according to Sepper, the majority of Estonians are still stuck in old mindset when it comes to traditional gender roles.

“The studies show that Estonians generally share similar attitudes with Scandinavians. But when you ask what skills and knowledge do you teach to your sons and daughters, there's a big difference with our Nordic neighbors,” Sepper told ERR on Friday, adding that in Estonia, parents still expect their daughters to learn cooking and looking after themselves, while failing to see that on these days, knowing how to keep up with a modern technology should be as essential for the girls, as it is for the boys.

“It shows that Estonians are still very traditional in their expectations as to what a woman or a man should do,” Sepper said.

Controversy surrounding the appointment

Margus Tsahkna, the Minister for Social Protection and IRL party head, named his fellow party member Pakosta as the next Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner in July.

The decision sparked outrage by a number of organizations. Thirteen independent non-governmental organizations sent a joint letter to the minister, raising concerns over the transparency and impartiality of the selection procedure. They said that several well-qualified candidates were excluded in different phases of the process, and a candidate with a little experience in the field of human rights and equal treatment was nominated. Many politicians, including the former Minister of Justice Andres Anvelt, also expressed their concerns and stated that the current selection method for the commissioner needs to be changed.

Some activists also pointed out that Pakosta voted against the Cohabitation Act while still in the Parliament. The act is expected to increase the rights of same-sex couples in Estonia. However, Pakosta previously said that she is not against same-sex partnerships.

Tsahkna said that the selection was carried out according to the law and that the best candidate was nominated to be the next commissioner. Pakosta has since terminated her IRL membership.

The equality commissioner is an independent and impartial official who monitors compliance with the requirements of the Estonian Gender Equality Act and the Equal Treatment Act. The commissioner monitors both the public and private sectors.

S. Tambur

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