New article on Progress Online – Will Britain be left behind on women’s rights?

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/articles/article.asp?a=6727

Will Britain be left behind on women’s rights?

Another week, another example of the Conservative Party refusing to back women’s rights in Europe. Conservative MEPs made clear their views on the subject once again this week when they refused to back a raft of proposals on ensuring women benefit from EU policies.

Whether we were targeting action to cut the gender pay gap, focussing on how we can help women from ethnic minorities to better integrate into society, or voting on ways in which we tackle discrimination against older women, the Tories were steadfast in their lack of support.

On the whole these weren’t legislative actions that would commit additional funding or tie anyone down in red tape. They were about sending a political signal to the European Commission about what issues MEPs consider to be important.

And in their votes this week it has become clear that for the Conservative Party women’s rights isn’t one of those issues.

What is particularly worrying is that this seems to be becoming a political narrative for this government’s approach in the EU.

Last week the Guardian reported that the Conservative-Lib Dem government was opting out of pan-EU measures to combat human trafficking. It’s a prime example of a policy area in which it makes perfect sense for European countries to work together. No wonder human rights groups have been up in arms.

To make matters worse, this isn’t even the first time that the new coalition government, only just 100 days old, has chosen to opt out of measures that would protect women from abuse and violence.

European Protection Orders are an idea currently being considered to ensure that women who receive the backing of the courts to protect them from violent attacks have that protection wherever they are in the EU.

The scheme had the backing of the Labour government but in June, quietly and with little media reporting, Justice Minister Ken Clarke reversed the UK position.

One of the interesting things about being in the European Parliament is that you get to see the different politics of the coalition partners close up. The Lib Dems and Conservatives regularly take opposing positions in the Strasbourg hemicycle.

So far, it looks like when it comes to government policy on women’s rights, the Conservative position is winning out every time.

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