The European Parliament works for Women

March 15, 2012 12:31 pm

Unlike the Tory-led coalition government in the UK, the European Parliament boasts a thriving women’s rights agenda.

This week’s plenary session in Strasbourg saw two reports addressing equality between men and women.

The first report concerned women in political decision making, calling for gender parity in participation at all levels in the political process. Slightly cheekily, the report recommended that member states support parity at the top of the European Union by proposing mamber states put forward both a female and a male candidate for the office of European Commissioner. The final decision would then be taken by the European Council and the European Parliament.

The report, in addition, called for increased promotion of women through the media and the education process, including a demand to challenge stereotyping thereby encouraging the portrayal of positive images of women as leaders.

This is an important, positive and progressive report, which offers a real chance to change attitudes.

Political representation is an area where the Labour party has made impressive steps. All women shortlists for Westminster selections have been particularly successful and we also, of course, have a system of ensuring women are placed in winnable positions on the lists for the European Parliament. We still have some way to go, but there is definitely more balanced representation within the Labour Party than in other parties. We have already shown that the proposals in this report are not unattainable pie in the sky.

Unsurprisingly the Tories voted against the entire report.

The second report concerned equality between women and men in the EU, providing a general overview of the position of men and women in 2011.

The Tories, who, having left the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) are now the leading lights in the rag-bag hard-right European Parliament political group the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), put forward a number of regressive amendments to the report. Interestingly the same amendments were also tabled by the UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Having previously tried and failed to get these amendments through the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, Tory MEP Marina Yannakoudakis should, I suppose, be given credit for dogged determination.

It is worth outlining the gist of the worst amendments put forward by the Tories to illustrate how backward looking they are in the European Parliament where they are obviously far less scrutinised than the House of Commons. Yannakoudakis tried to get the European Parliament to reconsider its decision (to make it worse of course) on a Directive on maternity leave currently being considered by the European Council. She also wanted to delete the paragraph in the report which called for the European Commission to present comprehensive data on female representation, the Tories’ aim being to halt European Commissioner Viviane Reding’s recent proposals for binding measures to address the imbalance of women on company boards

Thankfully the Tory amendments were defeated. A strong message has been sent to them and UKIP as well as women across the EU, saying: ‘The European Parliament takes women seriously. Women deserve the choice to live their lives to the full, including the opportunity to break through the glass ceiling. The European Parliament will support these efforts.’

Mary Honeyball is a Labour MEP for London.

  • GuyM

    Meanwhile in the real world…

Latest

  • News Jowell takes on new London-based role before potential mayoral bid

    Jowell takes on new London-based role before potential mayoral bid

    Tessa Jowell has taken on a new role lecturing at the London School of Economics (LSE), which should give her the time to concentrate on a likely campaign to be Labour’s candidate for London Mayor. Jowell, who is standing down as an MP next year, has started her post as Professor of Practice with the LSE Cities and in the Department of Government part-time. Jowell is currently considered one of the front-runners in the race for Labour’s candidacy, but all […]

    Read more →
  • Comment What Scotland requires from Labour right now is energy and clarity

    What Scotland requires from Labour right now is energy and clarity

    There are just over two weeks left until a decision that will alter Scotland – and Britain – irrevocably and immensely. Many voters have already completed their postal votes, and the campaign is as intense as any Scotland has known. The impact of a yes vote in the independence referendum would reverberate through the entire nation like an earthquake. Our nation as we currently understand it would cease to exist, a constitutional crisis the likes of which hasn’t been seen […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Labour suspends party members over Rotherham abuse investigation

    Labour suspends party members over Rotherham abuse investigation

    It’s reported this morning that Labour Party have suspended four members in relation to the findings found by the investigation into child abuse in Rotherham, which were released last week. The party have said that the four individuals in question – Jahangir Akhtar, Councillor Shaukat Ali, Councillor Gwendoline Ann Russell and Councillor Roger Stone - have been suspended pending investigation.   Alongside these four suspensions, the party have said that two former members – Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright and former councillor Maurice Kirk – […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Chris Kelly standing down is as significant as Douglas Carswell defecting

    Chris Kelly standing down is as significant as Douglas Carswell defecting

    Defections from one political party to another don’t happen very often, and they make great political theatre, so they are rightly big news.But in the week when Douglas Carswell switched from Tory to UKIP and made the blow doubly hard by doing the honourable thing and calling a by-election to get a public mandate for his decision, the media are wrong to have overlooked another, potentially even more significant announcement by a Tory MP, the obscure Chris Kelly. Carswell’s decision […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Lib Dem’s record on the environment doesn’t stand up

    The Lib Dem’s record on the environment doesn’t stand up

    September is here and the so called ‘silly season’ of summer stories is meant to be over. But that hasn’t stopped the Liberal Democrats publishing a wish list for a greener, cleaner Britain. Nick Clegg would have us believe that only the Liberal Democrats in Government could achieve new rights to access green space, clean air and action on reducing carbon emissions. But voters won’t be fooled for a second because the reality is that we have had the Liberal […]

    Read more →