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S&Ds push for the EU Charter of Women’s Rights to standardise and protect women across Europe


07 Mar 2024


Social Europe & Jobs

Ahead of the International Women’s Day, the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament call for the adoption of the EU Charter of Women’s Rights – their flagship project to standardise and protect the rights of all women across the European Union. 

The initiative of the Charter of Women’s Rights, first presented in Krakow, Poland, is an expression of the S&D’s strong belief that women’s rights must be carved in stone to be better protect against the far right’s relentless attempts to undermine them or take them away. In recent years, we have witnessed a worrisome regression in countries such as Poland, Hungary and Italy, but also globally, driven by far-right governments – the most tangible example of which was the de facto abortion ban in Poland. 

The S&Ds are incredibly proud of what they have achieved during this legislature when it comes to the fight for gender equality, to name just a few: 

  • Thanks to the insistent pressure and campaigning done by our Group, the EU finally ratified the Istanbul Convention – the most comprehensive international instrument to combat violence against women to this day;
  • We adopted a Pay Transparency directive, in which the S&Ds took the lead from the beginning, to give women a tool to fight for equal pay;
  • The Women on Boards directive was adopted, after a decade-long blockage by the conservatives, to improve gender balance at an executive director level of companies in Europe;
  • In a historic vote in June 2021, and despite enormous mobilisation from anti-choice and anti-gender movements, the European Parliament adopted a resolution saying women’s rights and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are human rights and called to decriminalise abortion in all member states
  • A deal on the first ever EU law to combat gender-based violence (to be voted in plenary in April), including criminalisation of gender-based cyber violence, like cyberstalking and cyber-flashing. 

However, more must be done to achieve full gender equality in the EU. Heading towards the June elections, the S&Ds also adopted a Position Paper on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights - their roadmap on how to achieve a full gender-equal society in the European Union, as they believe gender-equal societies are happier, heathier, more prosperous, safer and just. 

Heléne Fritzon, MEP and S&D vice-president, said: 

“S&Ds are always at the forefront of the battle for a feminist and fair Europe, where everyone can have the same opportunities and rights, and women can live free from violence. The empowerment of women and the protection of women’s rights is a priority for us, because we see gender equality as the basis of democracy, not a cherry on top! 

“We want a gender equality perspective integrated at all stages and levels of EU policies, programmes and budgets. This is not a women’s issue – gender equality benefits all citizens and the EU as a whole.”

Maria Noichl, MEP and S&D spokesperson on women’s rights and gender equality, added:

“This has been an extraordinary legislature in terms of laws voted to improve gender equality and to empower women. But, our fight is far from over. Discrimination, sexism and gender-based violence are real problems we must solve once and for all. 

“What happened in the US or Poland regarding abortion was not a one-off incident. Each time we make progress, there is a backlash, inspired by the far-right and anti-gender and fundamentalist conservative movements. This is a reminder that women’s rights can never be taken for granted. Therefore, we need the EU Charter of Women’s Rights as a clear benchmark of the common standards that we all swore to uphold.”

Robert Biedroń, S&D MEP, chair of the women’s rights committee (FEMM), added:

“It is appalling that in the 21st century women are being deprived of their hard-won rights and that the EU fails to protect them. In Poland, at least six women died because of fundamentalists and their barbaric laws on abortion, notably the de facto ban on abortion. Polish women voted them out in the last October elections, but we must make sure that such things will never happen again in Poland, or elsewhere on our continent.

“Unlike the conservatives, we do not use excuses or pretend not to have adequate tools. We are determined to win this fight and call for the EU Charter of Women’s Rights  –  the catalogue of harmonised women’s rights across the European Union  –  so all European women are properly protected and able to finally enjoy the same rights!” 

Note to editors: 

The EU Charter of Women’s Rights would enshrine the key fundamental rights of women and girls in the EU – including the right to decide about their bodies and lives, access to contraception, a ban on all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, socio-economic rights and economic independence.  Once adopted at an EU level, the Charter will protect and promote women’s rights and freedoms, and ensure that these rights are carefully safeguarded, respected and reflected in all the legislative and non-legislative work of the Union.


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