The European Parliament works for Women

15th March, 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 Victory is what we owe to the people we represent

    Victory is what we owe to the people we represent

    In 1963 JFK prepared (but never got to deliver) a speech attacking ‘voices preaching doctrines which apparently assume that … vituperation is as good as victory.’ Reading that last phrase recently I knew immediately what he meant. Years ago, after the 1980 local elections in the wake of Thatcher’s victory, there was a view in some quarters that, even when we won control locally, we should remain in opposition to ‘teach the electorate a lesson’. The idea was that if […]

    Read more →
  • Comment How well does Labour know its own members?

    How well does Labour know its own members?

    Reading an article on ConservativeHome provided a clear demonstration of how the Conservatives have embraced technology and have left Labour behind.  Without a clear signal of intent and without significant investment in tech, the Party will be hobbled at future elections. Fundamentally, the Party does not appear to have the level of information and detail required about its own members, let alone its voters and potential voters.  Without this it cannot motivate anyone.  The ability to tailor a pitch, an […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn promises to welcome “great talents” from all parts of the Labour party into his shadow cabinet

    Corbyn promises to welcome “great talents” from all parts of the Labour party into his shadow cabinet

    Jeremy Corbyn has said he would welcome “great talents” from all parts of the Labour party – including the Blairite wing – into his shadow cabinet if he becomes leader. In an interview with the Observer, the MP for Islington North says that he wants to have a “big tent”, including so-called Blairites and Brownites in his team. “Of course there are differences of opinion and I have to be big enough to accommodate those differences of opinion and I […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Neil Kinnock endorses Andy Burnham for Labour leader

    Neil Kinnock endorses Andy Burnham for Labour leader

    Neil Kinnock has endorsed Andy Burnham to be Labour’s next leader. The former Labour leader has written an article in the Guardian in which he argues that Burnham has “the radical values” “the experience as a campaigner and a cabinet minister” and “the credible policies” to be Labour leader. In a veiled jibe directed at Jeremy Corbyn, Kinnock also tells Labour members and supporters that the party “are not choosing the chair of a discussion group who can preside over […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Is Blue Labour the answer to Labour’s woes?

    Is Blue Labour the answer to Labour’s woes?

    What can the much-derided Blue Labour offer the party? It is a question worth asking, because the leadership contest has so far largely eschewed big ideas. Surely, losing so badly in England and being flat-out destroyed in Scotland calls for a thorough reckoning with the party’s downward trajectory from 2005 to the present – a soul-searching process which asks: what is Labour now for? Jeremy Corbyn is excelling and inspiring partly because he is the only candidate with a clear […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit