In their report adopted by 464 votes in favour, 119 against and 93 abstentions on Thursday, MEPs describe the Commission’s 2020-2025 Gender Equality Strategy as ambitious but regret that it is sometimes too vague and lacks defined targets to be reached by 2025 and clear monitoring tools.
Combatting violence against women
With regard to the Istanbul Convention, Parliament welcomes the Commission’s intention to propose measures in 2021 to achieve the Convention’s objectives in case some member states continue to block its ratification.
Deeply worried about the nature, extent and gravity of violence and harassment in the workplace, MEPs call for binding measures to define and prohibit violence and harassment at work. These include access to gender-responsive, safe and effective complaint and dispute resolution mechanisms, training and awareness-raising campaigns, and support services and remedies.
They also push for an EU framework directive to prevent and combat all forms of gender-based violence – particularly female genital mutilation (FGM), forced abortion, sterilisation and marriages, sexual exploitation, trafficking, cyber violence and online hate speech against women.
Closing the gender pay gap
In order to bridge the gender pay gap, MEPs urge the Commission to table binding measures on pay transparency as soon as possible.
In the context of the pandemic, MEPs highlight that 70% of the global health and social workforce are women, often paid the minimum salary. They call for wages and working conditions in strongly female-dominated sectors such as care, health and retail sales to be levelled up.
Countering backlash against gender equality
MEPs express their deep concern over the backlash against women’s rights in some member states, in particular regarding abortion rights and the access to comprehensive sex education in Poland, as well as the adopted reform that attacks transgender and intersex rights in Hungary. They call for the state of women’s rights and gender equality to be monitored continuously, including disinformation and regressive initiatives in all member states, and for an alarm system to highlight when rights are taken away.
The rapporteur, Maria Noichl (S&D, DE), said: “Today the European Parliament puts gender equality back on the agenda. We say ‘yes’ to a gender equal society and ‘no’ to violence against women and girls of all backgrounds. If nothing changes in the EU, it will take more than 65 years to achieve gender equality. The Gender Equality Strategy and its proposed actions are a faster route to equality between men and women. It also strengthens our position on the backlash against women’s rights taking place in several member states. Rule of law in Europe can only exist with gender equality – without it, democracy is lagging behind.”
The Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, presented in March 2020 by the Commission, outlines a set of key actions including ending gender-based violence and stereotypes, ensuring equal participation and opportunities in the labour market (including equal pay) and achieving gender balance in decision-making and politics.
EU member states scored on average 67.9 out of 100 in the 2020 Gender Equality Index, a score that has improved by just 5.9 points since 2005. The EU gender gap in hourly pay is 16% and increases to 37% when it comes to pension income.