BRUSSELS – In its last plenary session for the current year, the European Parliament discussed several measures to uphold women’s rights. Specifically, it demanded all members to devise concrete measures to uphold women’s rights and reduce gender inequalities in the European Union. 

On Wednesday, a non-legislative report was presented in the parliament which spoke of the EU’s dismal ranking on measures like gender equality and equal pay. It was voted for adoption by a huge majority of the Members of European Parliament (MEP), who felt that equal pay and equal treatment are an essential precondition for women’s equal rights, economic independence and career fulfillment.

The report cited the European Institute for Gender Equality’s Gender Equality Index which said that it would take the Union at least 60 years to achieve gender equality. The average score of the member nations on this index was 68% and more than one-third of them scored less than 60%. 

The MEPs also expressed concern about the high gender pay gap (14.1%) and pension gap (29.5%) among other unfair treatment of working women. This prompted them to ask all member nations to ensure their legal framework helps women gain access to fair and equal pay, labour rights and opportunities. They have a thumbs up to the proposal by the European Commission that necessitates all employers to maintain pay transparency. 

“We need a change in policy to strengthen and enforce women’s rights. To tackle inequalities, we need to increase wages, defend and promote high-quality universal public services, such as free access to health and education, but also access to housing and justice,” said rapporteur Sandra Pereira (The Left, PT) in her official statement on the move. She added that combatting all forms of violence against women is the only way to achieve gender equality. 

Other issues that affect the well being of women that were discussed during the session included work-life balance by reinforcing maternity and paternity entitlements, flexible working arrangements, and more investments in high-quality childcare services. Another provision that they felt all member nations must provide was guaranteed access to sexual and reproductive health.

Formulating laws to end gender-based violence, both physical and virtual, also formed an important part of the discussion. For this to happen, countries like Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia were told to ratify the Istanbul Convention.