EU court rules in favor of equality, opens door to more Greek women serving as police officers

It’s about time.

By Georgia Logothetis, Managing Director, HALC

The average Greek man is about 5′ 9″ or 5′ 10″. The average Greek woman is about 5′ 5″. The requirement to enter the Greek police forces is about 5′ 7″ — a measure which leaves most of Greece’s female population ineligible. An EU ruling this week corrects this unjust situation. CourtHouseNews has the background:

Marie-Eleni Kalliri missed that cutoff by a hairsplitting eight-tenths of an inch. She brought a discrimination complaint in Athens when the police force in Vrachati, a beach town on the island of Corinthia, refused her on that basis.

The court ruled that the blanket height requirement was unnecessary and discriminatory:

The ECJ supported the woman’s argument, stating in its ruling that the requirement “works to the disadvantage of a far greater number of women compared with men and … does not appear to be either appropriate or necessary.” […]

Although the court acknowledged that certain police officers should be physically fit for their positions, the judges said this “was not necessarily connected with being of a certain minimum height.” Instead, the court recommended that Greek police implement “measures that were less disadvantageous to women,” such as preselecting candidates on the basis of fitness tests.

Kalliri also pointed out that unlike the police force, the Greek armed forces, port police and coast guard have different minimum heights for men and women (and the requirement for women is much closer to the national average height). The court is absolutely correct in its judgement. Height alone bears almost no correlation to the ability to serve as a police officer, and it bears zero correlation when you’re talking about the difference between a person standing at 5′ 6″ or 5′ 5″ and someone standing at 5′ 9″. Have you ever noticed the height of a traffic cop in Greece, or the height of those on patrol?

According to Reuters, “women account for 13 percent of police officers in Greece. That compares to 18 percent in France, where a 1.60-metre rule was scrapped in 2010, and fully 29 percent in England and Wales, which abandoned minimum heights for both men and women 27 years ago.”

It’s been nearly fifty years since women were allowed on the police force, and great strides have been made in advancing women in leadership positions. This height requirement was a step backwards. Women should not be denied the opportunity to serve and protect their communities because of arbitrary and in fact discriminatory height requirements which have absolutely nothing to do with their ability to the job at hand. With this new court ruling, hopefully we’ll see the number of women in the police force soar to new heights.

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