The purpose of Council Directive 2004/113/EC is to establish a framework for combating discrimination based on sex in the access to and supply of goods and services. It aims to put into effect the principle of equal treatment for men and women in EU Member States. This Directive establishes minimum requirements in the field of non-discrimination on the ground of sex: while Member States can introduce or maintain provisions which are more favourable than those laid down in the Directive, they cannot reduce the level of protection already granted in the fields covered by it.
The prohibition of discrimination between women and men applies to access to and supply of goods and services, in both the public and private sectors. The Directive applies to goods and services which are available to the public, irrespective of the persons concerned (i.e. irrespective of the individual situation of the potential consumer), and which are offered outside the area of private and family life. The term "services" refers to services provided against payment. The Directive does not apply to the content of media and advertising or to education. Differences in the treatment of men and women may be accepted only if they are justified by a legitimate aim, such as the protection of victims of sex-related violence (in cases such as the establishment of single-sex shelters) or the freedom of association (in cases of membership of single-sex private clubs). Any limitation should nevertheless be appropriate and necessary.
The Directive establishes the prohibition of discrimination based on sex in the access to and supply of goods and services. Therefore, all discrimination between women and men is prohibited, including unfavourable treatment for reasons of pregnancy and maternity. Harassment, sexual harassment and incitement to discrimination are considered as discrimination based on sex and for this reason are also prohibited. The Directive includes the definitions of these concepts, referring to the definitions used for the same terms in previous Directives. The principle of equal treatment does not exclude the adoption of positive action to prevent or compensate for disadvantages linked to sex in the area of goods and services.
The Directive obliges all EU Member States to establish an equality body or bodies engaged with the promotion of equal treatment between women and men on a national level (“equality bodies”). These bodies will be empowered to analyse the problems encountered, put forward recommendations and provide concrete assistance to victims.
See more about the Council Directive 2004/113 EC under: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/employment_and_social_policy/equality_between_men_and_women/c10935_en.htm