Labour MEPs back strong EU gender equality strategy


 MEPs voted today to adopt a comprehensive and progressive EU gender equality strategy, addressing key issues like the gender pay gap, under-representation, discrimination, violence against women and sexual and reproductive health.

Labour MEPs backed the report but Conservative and UKIP MEPs voted against.

Julie welcomed the outcome, saying:

 "This is a landmark step in the continuing struggle for a more just Europe. The resolution is a strong call to the Commission and Member State governments to take action to fight against the root causes of violence against women, promote education for gender equality, and giving support to initiatives empowering women in culture and media, among many other strong policy demands. I am delighted so many colleagues, both men and women, voted for the resolution, and look forward to seeing what steps the Commission will take in response."



Parliament also says specific actions are needed to strengthen the rights of women with disabilities, migrant and ethnic minority women, Roma women, older women, single mothers and LGBTI.

 The resolution was adopted by 341 votes to 281, with 81 abstentions.

German Socialist MEP Maria Noichl, who drafted the resolution, said:

 “Despite our differences, MEPs focused on our key aim: to finally achieve real gender equality in Europe.” She added: "The resolution will serve as a good, balanced and forward-looking basis for a new women's rights and gender equality strategy for all women and men in the EU.”

 Fight new forms of violence against women

 MEPs call on the Commission to propose new laws containing binding measures to protect women from violence and want all member states to ratify the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible. They say special attention must be paid to new forms of violence against women and girls such as cyber-harassment, cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying. Furthermore, feminisation of poverty might lead to an increase in female trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution and member states should therefore find ways to discourage demand and establish programmes to exit from prostitution, says the text.

 Balancing family and working life

 Adequate maternity, paternity and parental leave are needed to increase female employment rates. Parents also need affordable, quality child-care services that are compatible with full-time working hours of both men and women. 

MEPs stress the importance of flexible forms of work in allowing women and men to reconcile work and family life according to their own choice.

 Member states need to combat precarious and undeclared employment of women, MEPs say, as it contributes to increased poverty among women. The Commission and the member states should take appropriate measures to reduce the gender pay and pension gap, says the text.

 More women in top positions

 MEPs ask the Council to reach a common position on a quota for women as soon as possible as this has proved successful in countries that have already introduced compulsory quotas. They also call on national and EU authorities to ensure equality within their own decision-making bodies by proposing both a female and a male candidate for high-level positions.

 Health and education

 Parliament calls for high-quality and readily accessible services in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights and safe and legal abortion and contraception, saying that women have the right to control their own bodies. Sex education programmes should be implemented in schools, says the text.

 Integrating gender perspective within and outside the EU

 MEPs call on member states to promote a balanced, non-stereotypical image of women in the media and advertising.

Combating bullying and prejudice against LGBTI persons in schools should be part of the EU's efforts to combat gender stereotypes, say MEPs. Education and empowerment also play an important role in combating gender stereotypes and ending gender-based discrimination.

The EU should provide a role model for gender equality and women’s rights within and outside EU borders. The gender perspective and the fight against gender violence should be integrated in EU foreign, development and trade policy, says the text.

Parliament calls on the Commission to promote the use of gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting and gender impact assessment in all areas and for each legislative proposal at all levels of governance.

Similarly, member states should introduce the gender dimension in their budgets in order to analyse government programmes and policies, their impact on the allocation of resources and their contribution to equality between men and women, says the text. 



·         55 % of women have experienced one or more forms of sexual harassment in the course of their lives and 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15

·         the female employment rate is 63%, whereas the gender pay gap stands at 16.4% and the gender pension gap is 39% on average

·         18% of women in the EU have experienced stalking since the age of 15, and one in five victims of stalking says that the abusive behaviour continued for two years or longer

·         equal participation of men and women in the labour market could significantly increase the economic potential of the EU, while confirming its fair and inclusive nature;  according to OECD projections, total convergence in participation rates would result in a 12.4% increase in per capita GDP by 2030

·         the gender pay gap stands at 16.4% and the pension gap at 39%

·         women account for 60% of new graduates but are under-represented in, for example, the science and research sector

·         women constitute 52% of the total European population, but only one-third of the self-employed or of all business start-ups in the EU


Julie's full speech in the plenary debate, 8th of June, 2015

"The debate here today is extremely important, and I am grateful to be able to stand up here and speak out for gender equality in Europe. I thank my Socialist colleagues, including the many male colleagues for their words, and of course a special thanks to Maria Noichl for her work on the report.

The vote tomorrow will determine much of the EU's gender equality strategy for years to come, affecting the lives of more than 250 million women, and ALSO 250 million men, and I am proud to be a good mother to two of them.  

From this Chamber we must issue a strong and ambitious call for action - a reality where 1 out of 3 women have suffers from physical or sexual violence, the most large scale violation of human rights in Europe - that is a reality we simply cannot accept. We need to have a clear strategy: supporting victims of violence, providing access to justice, and have Member States and the EU implement the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women.

We must also address the social causes of violence:  we must call upon Member States to implement strategies on education for gender equality, and for sex and relationship education. Educating children and young people to respect one another, educating for reciprocity and consent is the key to combatting the sexist cultural attitudes that enable violence. We must call for education against gender stereotypes, homophobia, and transphobia.

The representation of women in the media, in culture, and in arts is also crucial for combatting violence, and for gender equality in general - empowering women through positive role models, raising awareness of the diversity of gender roles, telling the stories of survivors of violence, and of women's success stories in the fields of science, technology, business and society at large.

We must also look to raise awareness and hear the stories of women in marginalised communities, and their daily struggles - women asylum seekers and immigrants, in Roma or minority women communities, women with disabilities, carers, LGBTI women, or women with mental health conditions. Any gender equality strategy must all these, and women and people with all gender identifications.

Supporting an ambitious and forward looking gender equality strategy is what Europe needs, and I beseech MEPs in all political groups to vote in favour of the Report tomorrow."