Weeklog Kartika Liotard: A question of persistence…

15 February 2010

Weeklog Kartika Liotard: A question of persistence…

If you're a woman I wish you in advance a happy 2010! In advance? But isn't it February already? Equal pay has been in the European treaties since 1957. Since 1957 ... Yet this principle is still not generally put into practice. The European Parliament has worked out that a woman must on average work 418 calendar days in order to earn as much as a man will in a year. So for women 2010 begins just fifty-three days late, on Monday 22nd February..

Kartika LiotardDirective “2006/54/EC” concerns equality of opportunity, equal treatment in work and professional incomes for men and women. Issuing directives is one thing, applying them apparently another. Last week in Strasbourg I added my voice to the urgent request that this unequal situation be brought to an end. More than fifty years after the the establishment of the principle of equality…

Human dignity
Last week the Netherlands received a hefty slap from Strasbourg. In 2005 Balkenende & Co signed an international convention against trafficking in human beings but this remains unratified. To sign, and then drag your feet for several years, this can't be right. Without such a legal ratification you cannot act effectively against forced prostitution and other forms of forced labour. This concerns problems which we must combat not only on the national level, but also via better international cooperation. Is trafficking in human beings, trafficking in women, not perhaps sufficiently degrading? When it comes to trafficking in women, the Netherlands has to be chased up from abroad before it will ratify the convention. I'm ashamed to see such an attitude from the Netherlands and from ten other countries.

Action from our own police, the labour inspectorate, housing corporations, the immigration service and border guards help. Through the campaign ‘Schijn bedriegt’ (Appearances are deceiving) conducted by the Human Trafficking Expertise Centre, perpetrators are more readily chased down and prosecuted and victims rescued more quickly from forced labour and forced prostitution. The campaign led to a large number of checks, arrests and prosecutions throughout the Netherlands. But you must also be able to take strong international action, and the Netherlands should be playing a leading role in this. As long as the convention against human trafficking is not enforceable by legal means, we will indeed be deceived by appearances.

Last week in Strasbourg we also saw the friends of our own governing centre-right CDA, together with other conservatives, once again try to limit the right to abortion. Just before the vote a warning letter arrived from the Polish MEP Joanna Skrzydlewska. This Christian Democrat sees "free and unconditional access to abortion and other reproductive health care" as a problem (for which read, a danger) and a matter with which Europe must not interfere. Happily the majority in the parliament demonstrated their solidarity with women and their right to self-determination on this point!

United Left in action
United Left in action   Photo: Olivier Hansen / GUE/NGL

And then there was still the point that the media picked up on. The European Parliament voted down a plan that would have seen the Americans given the freedom to nose around in our bank accounts. Before the vote I participated in the protest organised by the European United Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg in the full conviction that this misbegotten idea must be stopped.

During the last session I have worked for the three principles for which the SP stands: 1. equality, 2. human dignity and, 3. solidarity. In Strasbourg this is often a matter of paper: resolutions, conventions and treaties. It is sometimes difficult to stomach how slowly 'the paper' of these European treaties turns into anything more. But paper sometimes helps, as in the case of the posters that we held up to demonstrate our opposition to the SWIFT accord. It's a question of persistence.

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