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

  • Comment Europe McFadden’s appointment comes at a time of big opportunity for Labour on Europe

    McFadden’s appointment comes at a time of big opportunity for Labour on Europe

    Pat McFadden is taking over the Europe brief just at the time when the issue can work in Labour’s favour. Provided we hold to Ed Miliband’s decision not to cave in to the calls to offer an in-out referendum. Europe is again becoming toxic for the Tories. How Cameron must be looking back wistfully to that time when he told his party to stop banging on about Europe. That’s exactly what it is now doing. And it’s largely his own […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Next Portillo Moment

    The Next Portillo Moment

    Undoubtedly the highlight of election night ‘97 was seeing Labour record the unlikeliest of victories where I live in Enfield Southgate. We did it through hard work, at the time all three Enfield seats were blue and though the Labour swing meant that Edmonton and Enfield North were going red regardless it took a special campaign lead by an extraordinarily good candidate in Stephen Twigg to record what was an iconic victory in the Party’s history. We held the seat […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The business backlash against Tory EU exit plans 

    The business backlash against Tory EU exit plans 

    It’s not just José Manuel Barroso who has warned David Cameron that his party is taking the wrong approach when it comes to talk of an EU exit. There is a clear sense of concern and anger from the UK and international business community in respect of the Tory plans for an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in 2017. This has led to a serious business backlash against the Tories. Standard & Poor’s, the international rating […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Miliband sets out 5 point immigration reform plan (but won’t join “Operation Pander”)

    Miliband sets out 5 point immigration reform plan (but won’t join “Operation Pander”)

    Ed Miliband is in Rochester today, where he’s campaigning for the party’s by-election candidate Naushabah Khan against what he called the “two Tory opponents” of UKIP and the Tories in the Rochester and Strood by-election. But the main purpose of Miliband’s speech was to set out what Labour’s approach to immigration will be – specifically an Immigration Reform Bill in the first Queen’s Speech of the new Parliament. Miliband announced it’d be based around five key principles (most of which […]

    Read more →
  • News Sadiq Khan asks Mansion Tax critics – how would you fund the NHS?

    Sadiq Khan asks Mansion Tax critics – how would you fund the NHS?

    Since Labour conference, the majority of Labour’s potential London mayoral candidates have been critical of the party’s Mansion Tax proposals. However one presumptive candidate has been consistently positive about the plans – Sadiq Khan. That’s understandable and expected, as he’s a Shadow Cabinet member and a Miliband loyalist. But Khan has now launched a public defence of the tax (calling it “absolutely fair”) and a broadside against critics, asking them “why they are opposed to hiring thousands more nurses and doctors […]

    Read more →