GUE/NGL MEPs called for strong legal measures to combat sexism, sexual harassment and violence against women as well as for an end to the extreme right-wing groups usurping the issue for political purposes and accusing migrants and refugees of recent attacks against women.
This took place during last night’s European Parliament debate on ‘Ending sexual harassment and violence against women in public spaces’.
Swedish GUE/NGL MEP, Malin Björk, deplored the fact that all women and girls now see public spaces as being a problem: “On the streets, in schools and at concerts, women and girls are being subjected to violence and sexism. There are women being harassed by men, white men, and European males. All women should have the right to be heard by the police when there is an incident.”
“Sexism is a global phenomenon and we have to do much more to combat sexism and violence. We must fight for a more feminist Europe because this is also linked to sexuality, abortion and women’s freedom over their bodies. There is a real threat. We must fight for women’s equality every day.”
German MEP, Cornelia Ernst, said: “What we are talking about here is a deep contempt for women whose roots are not ethnic but patriarchal. We need a strong legal attack against sexism which must be regarded as a criminal offence.”
Referring to the New Year’s Eve events in Cologne, she said: “Women shouldn’t be afraid of taking their complaints to court and it should never again happen that the police look the other way while crimes are being committed against women. We must make sure that violence against women is finally regarded as a major social problem and one that all of us in all member states have to recognise and not just talk about as if it was collateral damage.”
Reiterating the seriousness of the events in Cologne, Portuguese MEP, João Pimenta Lopes, added: “Sexual aggression against women and, apparently, coordinated action, are things that need to be carefully investigated to ensure that we have an objective analysis without any exploitation from the extreme right or any racist interpretations.”
“It is essential to concentrate the debate on what is the real problem: the despicable sexual aggression against women. The answer is to fight against the aggressors and firmly fight the beliefs that regard women as objects. We must ensure the unequivocal right of women to preserve their dignity and have real equality policies, which the European Commission should be pushing.”
For Italian MEP, Eleonora Forenza, the events in Cologne have to be told and judged on the basis of solidarity. “Solidarity with women must be the starting point for any argument about what happened. A real policy against women has to start with self-determination for each woman. There is so much gender-based discrimination in Europe that it is still difficult to talk about full self-determination for women and to fight against male violence.”
German MEP, Stefan Eck, added: “40% of women in Germany over the age of 16 are subject to either sexual or physical violence. However, to put this debate into a context of immigration or refugee policy is simply not acceptable. German and other extreme right wing parties in Europe are using this as racist propaganda, deliberately inciting hatred against people from an immigrant background. This is unacceptable. People cannot be subject to suspicion just because they come from Africa or the Middle East.”
For Spanish MEP, Miguel Urban, doing away with sexual harassment against women should be a major priority. “The problem is this is an empty debate. It’s empty because we don’t talk about the real and deep causes of violence against women. Aggression against women is not determined by the origin or economic condition of the aggressor. It is determined by machoism which is ingrained in our society and the extreme right are trying to stigmatise immigration and refugees in order to impress and get votes. They don’t react when European men commit violence against women. Women are being oppressed. We need to work to change this!”