Men and women are not and never will be the same, but they should have the same rights, says MEP Marc Tarabella, rapporteur.
On January 20, the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) approved its annual progress report on gender equality in the EU, by a margin of 24 votes to 9.
Drafted by Belgian S&D member Marc Tarabella, the report underlines the slow progress in achieving gender equality. For instance, as far as employment is concerned, female employment rate is 63%, and the gender pay gap stands at 16.4%. Almost a third of employed women work part-time, compared to 8% of men.
Included in the report is a proposal for the introduction of a paid paternity leave of a minimum of 10 working days and the recognition of women’s control over their sexual and reproduction rights, not least by having access to contraception and abortion. The report also deplores the deadlock in the Council regarding the Maternity Leave Directive.
Following the vote Marc Tarabella discussed with the EP’s Newsroom the progress that was made, the issues which still need to be addressed and the general mindset in the EU.
“What is the situation in terms of equality in the EU today? You were the rapporteur for the report on gender equality in 2009, what has changed since then?
There has been progress, but it is too slow. If we continue like this we will not eliminate the gender pay gap before 2084. Since my last report five years ago the employment rate amongst women in Europe has grown from 60% to 63%, which is not enough. We also have to pay more attention to the quality of jobs – more and more women are in insecure or part-time jobs and on temporary contracts.
What are the main issues that need to be addressed as a priority?
Elimination of violence against women should be a priority. We should have a year dedicated to the fight against violence. It would be symbolic, but it is important to talk about it because in many countries it is still taboo.
The career glass ceiling is still a reality especially when we talk about quotas for women in listed companies. We can talk about it for 30 years, but to see real change we need binding measures. We also have to fight stereotypes from a very early age and to ratify the Istanbul convention on violence against women.
Regarding sexual and reproductive rights, this report is not for or against abortion. It is about equality and the right to decide, which is a fundamental right.
You are one of few men on the women’s rights committee. What role can men play in improving gender equality, and are they ready to accept changes?
There are not enough men who are ready to work with this problem. There are a lot of stereotypes towards men who fight for gender equality. We need to change mentalities. I think that gender equality is the equality of rights and accessibility. Men and women are not and never will be the same, but they should have the same rights”.
Every year the Parliament’s women’s rights committee prepares a report to assess the progress made in equality between women and men. Tarabella report is due to be voted on by a plenary session of the EP in Strasbourg on March 9. Read more here.
By Roxana Mironescu
Freelance journalist, communication professional, blogger and gender equality activist, currently based in Luxembourg.
Photos: European Parliament