Home Europe Female lobby groups fear men to dominate parliament if far-right surges

Female lobby groups fear men to dominate parliament if far-right surges

EU female lobby groups are concerned men might dominate key decision-making committees in European Parliament if far-right surge after elections

by Narges Mohammadi

The European Parliament attained its greatest gender equality during the 2019-2024 session: of its 705 current lawmakers, some 280 are women. Advocacy groups fear that this might change with the next legislature, however, if more far-right politicians get elected: their lists are generally less balanced, and they have more conservative policies. We take a look at the gender statistics as Europeans go to the polls this week.

How does the situation look now?

From just over 16% of female lawmakers in the first directly elected EU Parliament in 1979, the percentage of women rose to 41% in the 2019 EU election, according to the Parliament’s research service. The current European Commission is also the most gender-balanced in the history of the institution, and it’s led by a female president – Ursula von der Leyen – for the first time.

There have been some calls from within the Parliament, however, to increase the position of women within its ranks through reforms. Greek MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL), Vice-President of the Parliament, called for more female representation among the institutions’ committee leaders, and to have at least a third of female lawmakers in each committee.

Jéromine Andolfatto, policy and campaigns officer at the European Women’s Lobby, told Euro news that despite this legislature being the most balanced, there remains “a horizontal segregation”.

“If you look at the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committee in the parliament, almost all members are female, but when considering influential committees like the foreign affairs or legal ones, there are more men, which reduces the voice of female politicians,” Andolfatto said.

In addition, there are large disparities between Member States. Some countries – Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden for example – have slightly more female than male lawmakers, whereas women make up less than a quarter of MEPs from Romania, Cyprus and Greece.

A way to ramp up the number of female politicians is gender quotas to ensure a share of women that must be included in a candidate list. There are no EU-wide rules for this, but some eleven member states – Belgium, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain – currently have binding gender quotas for EU elections. Some of them even issue sanctions in case candidate lists don’t comply with the quotas.

Countries such as Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have managed to achieve significant shares of women in parliaments and executives in the EU without binding quotas.

In the Netherlands, the Stem op een vrouw (Vote for a woman) advocacy group tries to motivate people to vote strategically to increase the share of women in parliament. In the 2019 election, the Netherlands picked sixteen male lawmakers, and thirteen females; three of whom were elected with preference votes: Samira Rafaela (Renew), Liesje Schreinemacher (Renew) and Kim van Sparrentak (Greens).

Andolfatto said that binding quotes can work in these instances and “experience shows that quotas are the best way to fast-track female representation.”

“With a natural flow of events it would take ages to reach equality. Plus, we need women on good spots on the lists too,” she added.

The most progressive countries with a balanced representation in the current Parliament have maintained relatively gender-equal lists for the June vote, data collected by Euro news shows. At the same time, far-right parties often have more men on their lists than women.

Romania’s far-right AUR party listed only two women in the top 10. The same picture in Greece where the far-right National Front has placed female candidates significantly lower than men; the top 10 only features three women.

This also applies to the Dutch far-right PPV party with only three women in the top 10. We see a similar picture in Germany where the Alternative for Germany (AfD) selected two women in the top ten, in fourth and ninth place.

Conservative policies

Expectations are that the Parliament’s composition is likely going to shift and right-wing parties win seats, this also leaves the women’s lobby with a question about the content of policies.

“We achieved quite a lot of progress in this 2019-2024 term, partially due to progressive female leaders such as Von der Leyen who had a commissioner dealing with equality, and EU directives on preventing violence against women,” the European Women’s Lobby’s Andolfatto said.

Stem op een vrouw cites more parental leave as a good example of a gender equal policy emerging from this Parliament. Lawmakers voted for EU-wide rules of six days of leave. “Until recently, the Netherlands only had two days of parental leave, mainly used by fathers. This caused gender inequality, as it meant that mothers were often on their own after the birth of a child.”

However, Andolfatto fears that a more right-wing parliament would also mean fewer progressive decisions. “We see the results of a far-right surge on a national level, such as in Italy, with a risk of more conservative policies and also backtracking on women rights like abortion. This is a concern for us,” she said.

Source: Euro News

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