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 Analysis shows where the Greens are the biggest threat to Labour

    Analysis shows where the Greens are the biggest threat to Labour

    The polls have recently shown a rising level of support for the Greens. This poses a big threat to Labour. With the general election fast approaching, Rob Ford, who’s a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester and co-author of Revolt on the Right, has analysed exactly where the threat from the Greens is at its highest. He’s identified 22 seats with the highest amount of people who could move from voting Labour to Green, including current Labour-held seats such as […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Labour commit to Home Rule Bill within first 100 days of government

    Labour commit to Home Rule Bill within first 100 days of government

    Margaret Currant, Shadow Scottish Secretary, has today announced that within 100 days of coming into Government, Labour would lay Scotland’s Home Rule Bill in the House of Commons. As well as pledging to do this, Curran has also outlined other devolution priorities. They include: A full review of how Westminster and Scottish Governments can best work together for Scottish people. Bring together Scotland’s council leaders from all parties to decide on a strategy for working together on areas of UK […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Meet Nigel Farage: what UKIP really think about the NHS

    Meet Nigel Farage: what UKIP really think about the NHS

    The fact that UKIP is more Tory than the Tories has been often stated. Nowhere is it more clear that this statement is accurate than on health policy. The General Election will in part be a fight save the NHS. Not just from the Tories, but from UKIP as well. David Cameron’s Tories may have pushed our health service to the brink, but Nigel Farage has never even bothered to hide the fact that he is a cheerleader for increased privatisation, including through charging patients for basic care. Nigel Farage has today defended his Party Secretary who advocates privatisation of […]

    Read more →
  • News Ukip General Secretary compares the NHS to Hitler’s bunker

    Ukip General Secretary compares the NHS to Hitler’s bunker

    Ukip’s General Secretary, Matthew Richardson has called the NHS “the biggest waste of money in the UK”, the Sunday Mirror has uncovered. Richardson was speaking to right-wing activists in Washington DC, and went on to compare the NHS to Nazi Germany. He said “A number I couldn’t possibly imagine when I was younger is now the amount of money that is owed by my country… of course, at the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism, is the National […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland “The best deal for Scotland is a People’s ScotRail” – Murphy announces rail plans

    “The best deal for Scotland is a People’s ScotRail” – Murphy announces rail plans

    Jim Murphy has announced his preference for a non-profit organisation, People’s Scotrail, running Scotland’s railways. The Scottish Parliament will gain extra powers – devolved through the Smith Agreement – that include allowing a non-profit organisation to bid to run Scotland’s railways. Murphy has backed this idea. This comes after the SNP awarded the contract to a firm run by the Dutch Government – despite Scottish Labour calling for a halt to the ScotRail franchising process until the Scottish Government had more powers post-Smith Commission. Jim […]

    Read more →