Brussels, 11/03/2014 (Agence Europe) – A legislative resolution on gender equality was rejected by nine votes by the European Parliament on Tuesday 11 March. The face of its author, Ines Zuber (GUE, Portugal), fell as the result of the votes were read out (298 against, 289 in favour and 87 abstentions), in a similar reaction to that of Edit Estrela (S&D, Portugal) a few months earlier, when her report on sexual and reproductive rights was rejected by the European Parliament.

Austerity. Once again, the Conservatives (EPP, ECR, EFD) had the final word in the hemicycle on gender equality, a few days after International Women's Day. They explained that their opposition was mainly due to the fact that the draft resolution criticised the impact of the austerity measures on gender equality in these times of crisis. This tells the rapporteur that the result of the vote is politically significant as it means that “the European Parliament is seeking to divert attention away from the consequences of the effects of the austerity policies imposed upon women by the various European governments”.

Abortion rights. The draft resolution discusses the right to reproductive and sexual health, calling on the member states to ensure that women are free to end unwanted pregnancies if they so desire. Abortion is a question that divides the European Parliament and in the autumn, MEPs scuppered a report by Edite Estrela on reproductive and sexual rights, calling for abortion to be regulated in Europe. Many MEPs took action earlier in the year to criticise plans in Spain to scrap abortion rights.

Daggers drawn. The result of the vote astonished MEPs and created uproar in the assembly room. Izaskun Bilbao (ALDE, Spain) spoke after the vote, expressing fury at the attack on gender equality. Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, France) said that the vote at the Parliament was disgraceful and off-hand, and women's power over their own bodies should not be challenged or subject to debate. Véronique De Keyser (S&D, Belgium) criticised the incredible backward step – right after Women's Day. The two MEPs wondered why the own initiative report had been opposed by two Greens, Demesmaeker and Ruhle (Ed: four Maltese Socialists also voted against it – Abela Baldacchino, Attard-Montalto, Cuschieri and Mizzi).

After the vote, the head of the Christian Democrats group, Joseph Daul (EPP, France) said that an own initiative report that had been amended no fewer than 50 times should never have got as far as the plenary. On behalf of the Conservatives, Marina Yanakoudis (ECR, the United Kingdom) welcomed the rejection of the report on the grounds that it went too far, over-riding member states' own views on matters of equality. (MD)


13 March 2014
The European Parliament has not managed to adopt a resolution on gender equality within the EU in 2012. In a vote in plenary session, on 11 March, MEPs rejected a text by rapporteur Ines Cristina Zuber (GUE-NGL, Portugal) with 289 votes in favour, 298 against and 87 abstentions. An alternative resolution proposed by the EPP group has not been adopted either. The centre-right considers that Zuber's report has strayed from the subject by dealing with the negative consequences of austerity measures – hence its proposal of an alternative text. Divisive subjects, such as penalising prostitution, have created rifts both between and within political groups.

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