The 8th of March is regarded as the day, when women’s politics are in the focus of the public interest. Major and small news magazines alike are readily reporting on the Gender Pay Gap, the work-life balance or on (too) few women in leading positions. However, in 2018 the International Women’s Day is also under the sign of the #MeToo campaign and hence the sexualised violence against women.
Violence against women is taking part throughout our society. Men who have political influence abuse their position, be it to make sexist comments or even to commit sexual abuse. Women in the European Parliament are also sexually harrassed on a regular basis. Some female employees, who have been inappropriately touched, pursued or otherwise harassed by male MEPs, but also by their colleagues have spoken out in the course of the der #MeToo Campaign. This led the Green MEP Terry Reintke to launch the #MeTooEU campaign with the feminist women*network Period.Brussels. Together they demand to set up a central complaints office to report cases of harassment for EU institutions as well as to establish an independent committee in the European Parliament, which is responsible for all cases of sexual harassment and sexualised violence.
The left faction in the European Parliament (GUE/ENGL) has even invited to a multi-day Feminist Forum to coincide with Women's Day. Within its scope, one of the panels spoke of the importance of tariff negotiations for same pay and for more gender equality on the labour market. The panel invited in particular female trade union members from southern Member States to speak. Crisitna Faciabien for example told of the feminist strike planned for today in Spain, which they want to use to make trade unions aware of the fact that the world would stand still without women. In her contribution, Ana Oliveira, economist from Portugal, pointed out that, in most cases, collective bargaining of social partners would bring benefits for women on the labour market, because besides wage increases also non-financial aspects, such as better dismissal protection, further training measures or parental leave, are agreed upon. The women on the panel agreed that the low pay of women would result in an even wider gap with regard to pensions, thereby often leading to old-age poverty.
The European Commission too has used the occasion to release a Communication. In it, it once again emphasises how important equality of men and women is for the wellbeing of all people living in Europe. However, to achieve this noble objective, she does not place her hope, the exception proves the rules, on legally binding measures but on the voluntary commitment of countries and companies. Hence, in the Commission’s Action plan, published in December, on closing the “Gender Pay Gap” one finds mainly recommendations to Member States. However, when it comes to the share of women in leading positions, the European Commission has indeed taken the lead: in February 2018, the number of women in leading positions in the European Commission had risen 36 %. When the current Commission started its term in November 2014; the figure was still at 11 %. According to a promise by President Juncker, this percentage shall have been increased by the end of the term of the Commission; the targeted figure by 31 October 2019 is 40 %. It would indeed be desirable if some of the European governments and companies would follow this example.