Real equality between women and men is the base of European values and of progressivism. The historical domination of men on women is the central determinant of every other dominations.
Protecting women’s rights is the way to begin to protect essential liberties for everybody.
The European Union has played a big part in the promotion of women’s rights since its very beginning. Indeed, the Treaty of Rome required the commitment for member states to ensure that “men and women should receive equal pay for equal work”. Since then, we must be grateful to the E.U. for many gains regarding equal pay, maternity rights, parental leave, protection from harassment, rights for part-time workers (the great majority of which are women) …
But nowadays, it seems like Europe is focusing more and more on single market policies, at the expense of many social issues. For a market to be healthy over time, it is necessary to look at both financial and non-financial performance indicators. The last ones (equality, happiness, sense of belonging…) tend to be dangerously forgotten. As a result, populations from the member states dissociate themselves from the E.U., with Brexit as the striking example.
If no alternative scenario is found, it will be the most under-privileged populations in particular that will suffer. And women are almost always the first victims of every inequality issue: because it is harder for them to get a full-time job, because they have to take on at least two thirds of the unpaid work, because they are yet often expected to set aside their careers to take care of their children, because it is harder for them to get promoted, because they still do not get paid as much as men for the same jobs… It is therefore in their best interest to contribute to a stronger EU, capable of taking on social matters alongside economical ones.
Far-right : they vote against about every single proposal to improve gender equality in Europe.
The dark cloud of populism grows bigger and bigger and represents a threat that must be faced up to. We live in a year in which a Polish MEP stated in plenary that “women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, smaller, less intelligent”. While far-right parties use immigration concerns to gain in popularity, we should not forget another aspect of their positioning that they do not much advertise: they have always been strong opponents of women’s rights. Unlike every other party, they do not support gender quotas in politics, they often have troubling views on abortion and sometimes even contraception, and they vote against about every single proposal to improve gender equality in Europe.
As progressives, we believe that legislation and enforcement are the ways to change behaviours and secure the rights of women. But the advancement of European gender equality regulations has slowed down disturbingly. Quotas for women on boards have been rejected, the bill to extend maternity leave to 18 weeks was abandoned after being blocked for 7 years, the right to abortion suffered several setbacks in member states while the EU still fails to impose it as a fundamental right.
We need even more than stronger, renewed and better regulations. We will change the society through movements and active campaigns against violence, sexism, sexual harassment, … and in favour of better balance of women representation in medias, films, video games, sports, politics, economy …
Europe needs to show the way towards a more respectful, equal and sustainable world. Once again in history, the “European dream” must inspire every other country. We won’t be able to do that without having the courage of designing a brave and human common immigration policy and, why not, a strong and revolutionary approach to real equality between women and men.
If Europeans don’t do it, who else will ever do it?