Today the European Parliament voted for a resolution proposing concrete actions to combat sexual harassment in reaction to a wave of revelations of predatory behaviour and harassment made by millions of women online and disclosures about harassment within the institution itself.
Thousands of women have come forward using the #MeToo hashtag amid growing public calls for tough action on the issue.
MEPs have written to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani calling on him to take urgent steps to clean up his own house, after it emerged that complaints of sexual harassment were being overlooked and indeed tolerated in the Parliament.
MEPs voted today for the establishment of a task force of independent experts with a mandate to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in the Parliament, called for a Directive against violence against women, and called for mandatory training for all staff and Members on respect and dignity at work.
In the debate on this issue, Swedish MEP Malin Björk declared her wholehearted support for the wave of popular mobilisation:
“The #MeToo campaign was an eye opener for many, especially men. But for many of us it’s daily life: to constantly have to set limits, to make risk assessments.”
“#MeToo is about sisterhood. We will support all those who spoke out. We will support all those who break the silence. We will be there for each other.”
“#MeToo is about recognising that there is a structural problem. There are not just a few isolated cases and it is not – as some racists in this house like to believe – only men from a particular culture or religion. It’s about all men. It is about the macho culture in our societies.”
Björk called on men to assume responsibility for sexual harassment and join efforts to combat it with a zero-tolerance approach:
“#MeToo is about requiring men to take responsibility. You have to take a stand against misogyny and have courage. If you are not part of the solution, by opposing sexism and this macho culture, you are part of the problem.”
“#MeToo is a campaign for change. We have to start cleaning our own house. As policy-makers, we need to take action for change and start in this Parliament.”
Italian MEP Eleonora Forenza shared her own personal story of harassment in the plenary yesterday:
“When I was 19 years-old, while at university, a professor of about 70 years-old made advances on me. I said ‘no’. I will never forget how I struggled to understand what had happened to me on that day. The feeling of shame, of anger. Most of all, I will never forget the woman who helped me overcome that disgust.”
“As MEPs we stand together against men's harassment on women. Women should be strength for each other. The Italian network ‘Non una di meno’ has become a global political movement, a global political force, which will go out in the streets on the 25th of November against men's violence, against exploitation, and against racism.”
“Why aren’t more women speaking out? Because sexism and complicity is still too strong. We must fight against this misogynist culture,” Forenza concluded.