Male-female equality: tackle violence and guarantee paternity leave say MEPs

In its annual resolution on equality between men and women in the EU, Parliament called last week for greater efforts to tackle violence against women, for paternity leave to be addressed at EU level and for equal pay legislation to be revised. A majority of MEPs also say women must have control over their sexual and reproductive rights, through easy access to contraception and abortion.

The resolution, drafted by Marc Tarabella, (S&D, BE), was adopted by 381 votes to 253, with 31 abstentions.

Eradicating violence against women

MEPs call on the Commission to draft a comprehensive directive on preventing and combating all forms of violence against women. They call for a European Year of Combating Violence against Women, pointing out that almost one in four women in the EU suffer physical violence and more than 10% sexual violence. MEPs also endorse the Spanish Presidency’s proposals to introduce an EU-wide “European protection order for victims” and a common EU-wide telephone helpline for victims.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Parliament believes recognition of the full physical and sexual autonomy of women is a first step for any policies designed to combat violence against women. Women must have control over their sexual and reproductive rights, notably through easy access to contraception and abortion (this point was adopted by 361 votes to 237, with 40 abstentions) and abortion consultations must be free of charge. A majority of MEPs thus backed measures to improve women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Fighting human trafficking

So far, only 16 EU Member States have ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which is the strongest European legal instrument in the fight against trafficking in human beings, a modern form of slavery. MEPs call on the Member States that have not yet done so (i. e. the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden) to ratify this Convention.

Establishing paternity leave entitlement

The EU has a directive on maternity leave and a directive on parental leave, but no legislation on paternity leave. The House therefore calls on the Commission “to support any moves to establish paternity-leave entitlement on a Europe-wide basis” and says that maternity and paternity leave should be linked so as to afford better protection to women in the labour market. MEPs regret that the Social Partners’ Framework Agreement on Parental Leave from July 2009 fails to address the issue of paid leave as a way of achieving male-female equality.

Equal pay

Parliament deplores the fact that the Commission has not responded to the EP’s request that it present draft legislation revising the existing law on application of the principle of equal pay and that it present such a proposal without delay.

Gender balance in high-level positions

A better gender balance in corporate, administrative and political positions of responsibility in the Member States should be encouraged, say MEPs, pointing to the Norwegian Government’s decision to increase the rate of female members on the boards of private and public companies to at least 40%.

As to the composition of the Commission, a majority of MEPs call on Member States, in future nominations, to put forward two candidates, one of each gender, so as to facilitate the composition of a more representative Commission.

Migrant women

Migrant women, especially Romani women, regularly experience multiple forms of discrimination and national equality bodies should address this matter, says the report. MEPs also ask the Member States “to provide social security cover for female workers in domestic and other sectors where it is not available, with a view to promoting the integration of migrants”.


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