Opening the event 'Citizenship for Whom? Engendering Citizenship: A Key to Democracy' in the European Parliament, GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer said that unfortunately, there are many practices in the EU that block women's rights, such as the “tolerance for violence against women in many countries and restrictive abortion laws to give just two examples”.


The conference was organised with the European Feminist Initiative.


“Encouragingly, some small steps are being taken such as calls to improve the living and working conditions of migrants without papers, the mass protests in different countries: for example, against the draft law on abortion in Spain, and campaigns for equality in countries of North Africa and the Middle East that have helped put gender equality on the political agenda,” Zimmer said. “But there's a lot more to do! We need to maintain the pressure and cooperation.”


Thanking the European Feminist Initiative for organising the event, GUE/NGL MEP and Chair of Parliament's Women's rights and gender equality committee Mikael Gustafsson said: “The skewed distribution of time, income and power between women and men has consequences for individuals the world over.”


“Democracy, gender equality and social justice are prerequisites for peace. Across the world we see how women are strong players in the work for peace and justice. Women, for example, played a central role in the Arab Spring; they demanded not only democracy and respect for human rights, but also equality as a central principle in society. But women often pay a high price: they are targeted, insulted, abused and raped. Women stood in the forefront of the Arab Spring but when new constitutions were being discussed it seemed women's rights were overlooked.”

Gustafsson said he believed “that women's organisations have a critical role and need our full support. Without the participation of women in peace-building and democratic processes, we cannot achieve freedom and human rights.”

Lilian Halls-French, Co-President of the European Feminist Initiative said that “in spite of progress made in the field of gender equality, substantial equality between women and men remains a goal difficult to reach throughout the whole Europe both in the private and public spheres. The fact that women do not have equal access to full citizenship is not only a measure of democracy but it also unveils the close relationships between power and domination which structure our societies.”

“Can we talk about women’s citizenship while their fundamental rights are not ensured, are constantly violated and even threatened or denied in many countries?Which kind of citizenship can we talk about without an active participation of women in political sphere, a full employment and professional responsibilities?” she asked. “Which kind of citizenship for migrant women, women workers without civil rights or spouses governed by discriminatory laws in their native countries? Which kind of citizenship for women deprived of the right to live without the fear of violence, for women who are denied the right to have control over their own body, over their own life?”


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