Human rights for women continues to lag in Europe. Gender discrimination remains widespread and has been further exacerbated by the economic crisis and ensuing austerity measures adopted in some European states, which have impacted women disproportionately.
Women’s rights also are threatened by the resurgence of reactionary trends targeting women who try to move from the subordinated role in which they have been kept for centuries. Hate speech, especially on the Internet, is another issue of concern. Discrimination and hate speech can incite violence against women, which can bring life-threatening consequences. The response of national authorities, including the police, prosecutors and judges, remains inadequate in a great number of cases of violence against women.
Recent progress has been made in a number of areas. The Council of Europe Convention to prevent and combat violence against women and reduce domestic violence has registered as a force for change, and the Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017 is well in place. Clearly, much more needs to be done to ensure gender equality. The Commissioner for Human Rights has marked the importance of the human rights of women.
Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France and is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. In 2014, the city proper had 276,170 inhabitants and Greater Strasbourg had 484,157 inhabitants. Strasbourg is close to the border of Germany in the historic region of Alsace, and it is the seat of the European Parliament.
Strasbourg also is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe and its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory and Eurocorps. Also present are the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of the European Union. The city is also the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine and the International Institute of Human Rights.
Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time the honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is immersed in the Franco-German culture, and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a cultural bridge between France and Germany for centuries. The University of Strasbourg, currently the second largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture, contribute significantly to the evolution of progress. The Strasbourg Grand Mosque, inaugurated by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls on 27 September 2012, is the largest Islamic place of worship in France.
Economically, Strasbourg is an important centre of manufacturing and engineering, as well as a hub of road, rail and river transportation. The port of Strasbourg is the second largest on the Rhine after Duisburg, Germany.
Strasbourg’s roots can be traced to the year 12 BC, when the Roman General Nero Claudius Drusus established a military outpost called the Argentoratum. The orthogonal layout of streets, typical of Roman settlements, is still recognizable today. Most of the ruins from the period of Roman settlement, including the remnants of a temple and a theatre, were undiscovered until after the Second World War. Strasbourg is known for its cathedral, which displays a predominantly Gothic face in its present form. Yet the city’s history began much earlier. Construction began at the site of several earlier structures in 1176 and was not completed until 1439.
The Medieval City
The traces of the oldest settlement are concentrated in the historical city centre on the Grande Île (Grand Island), which is encircled by two arms of the River Ill. The medieval city of Strasbourg developed from settlements founded by the Alemanni and the Franks. Strasbourg was incorporated into the Frankish Empire as Strateburgum in 496. In the 9th century it became part of the emerging medieval German Empire.
Strasbourg acquired the title of Free Imperial City in the 14th century. The economy flourished. This was also the period during which the original medieval city was expanded. Building had already begun in the south in 1228; the first new buildings in the northwest were erected in 1374 and in the southwest in 1387. The Rhine Bridge was built a year later.
The Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) had a disastrous impact on Strasbourg. Much of Alsace was laid to waste and the region was annexed by France after the war. While religious freedom was maintained, the Catholic Church regained a significant degree of influence. The city had not grown larger since the medieval expansion phase.
Fortifications built in the 16th and 17th centuries
Following the invention of the printing press – Johannes Gutenberg worked in Strasbourg for ten years – the city developed into an important cultural centre of interregional stature in the 15th century. Humanists discovered Strasbourg, and the Reformation was introduced.
Presently, children chase pigeons, musicians entertain the local and visiting population strolling along the river, dining in the many noteworthy restaurants, and the shops offer charming regional specialities.
What river city would be complete without the Batoboat? The bridge opens to the side to allow passage, which provides an entertaining scene to visitors crossing the bridge.
While Alsace and Strasbourg have been the object of rival claims by France and Germany up until the very recent past and have experienced multiple changes of possession, little children will always chase pigeons. And the city yet plays an important role as a mediator between the two nations and cultures. Thus it is easy to see it is no coincidence that important European institutions and organizations of the European Union (EU) are now located in this richly historical city and region.
Toward the modern city.
Modern Art Museum’s welcome.
Another enjoyable niche in the city at the modern art museum.
Originally Published: March 14, 2017