The European Parliament is set to vote on Tuesday on a report on gender equality in the European Union (EU). The report, by Marc Tarabella MEP, is an update prepared annually by the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and details the progress on equality between women and men in the EU in 2013. Among the problems highlighted by the report are a number of social issues which continue to impede efforts to guarantee equal treatment for women, including insufficient efforts to confront violence against women. It is unambiguous in emphasising that women have the ‘right to do what they wish with their own bodies,’ including access to contraception and abortion. Tarabella has reiterated in an interview on the European Parliament website that a woman’s right to choose an abortion remains a ‘fundamental right’ and is one of the main issues that needs to be addressed in order to advance gender equality.
However, the report’s commitment to ensuring greater access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services has drawn the ire of hardline religious campaigners, who are threatening to derail it through aggressive lobbying. The European Humanist Federation (EHF), Catholics for Choice, European Women Lobby, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, and ILGA-Europe have expressed concern over these developments, given that the same ‘ultra-conservative’ lobbyists have threatened the authors of two previous EU reports. As such, they are urging all those committed to gender equality to contact their MEP ahead of tomorrow’s vote, warning:
‘Several regressive anti-human rights organizations – like CitizenGo or European Dignity Watch – have called MEPs to oppose the report under the false pretense that SRHR falls under the exclusive competence of EU Member States. Those are the same that have manipulated the concept of SRHR to impose their ultra-conservative agenda in the past and threatened Edite Estrela for her Report on SRHR in 2013 and Ulrike Lunacek for her Report on EU roadmap against homophobia in 2014.’
Responding to the report, BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns and EHF Vice Chair Pavan Dhaliwal said, ‘ We have called on MEPs to vote in support of this important report and not to allow religious hardliners to jeopardise its progress. This report highlights a number of issues that must be tackled if we are to advance gender equality within the EU. The BHA agrees with the finding that ensuring free access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services forms an important part of these efforts. A woman’s right to choose remains integral to her autonomy, and the fundamental right of women to have control over their own bodies cannot be jeopardised by the underhand tactics of radical religious lobbyists.’
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns and EHF Vice Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0773 843 5059.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.