The European Parliament (EP) is often looked at as a unified and progressive actor in the field of gender equality. However, this study found counterarguments. It reveals strong dynamics of tensions and contradictions around gender equality, which ultimately limit what can be achieved in the EP and, by extension, in the EU. The resistance and opposition of some forces exposes how gender equality remains a contested topic. This becomes particularly clear in the analysis of discourses about the EU’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention and the development of a supranational right to abortion, which are two of the policy cases in this study.
The third case analysed sexual harassment within the EP and brings out a novel layer of findings. It puts into contrast the EP’s role as a policymaker and its role in regulating its own internal practices. According to Berthet, the findings draw attention to a mismatch where the European Parliament does not implement what it projects as good policies for its member states. The findings bring to light contradictions between the EP’s weak institutional responses to tackling sexual harassment within its own walls and the ambitious measures it has adopted as policies. In sum, the possibilities for the EP to overcome resistance and advance gender equality is best assessed against a review of its own unequal practices, the study argues. The political tensions around these issues at stake in the EP should be understood because, as the most democratic body of the EU, the EP has seen its power increase recently and it is still an important norm-maker in the field of gender equality.
Berthet is from France, and she obtained an LL.M in International Law from the University of Kent. She currently works in the European Research Council-funded Consolidator Grant project EUGenDem, which studies the gendered practices and policies of the European Parliament (2018–2023). In 2023, she will join the Centre for European Studies at the University of Helsinki to work in the HORIZON Action-Grant Budget-based project CCINDLE that studies inclusive and intersectional democratic spaces across Europe.
The doctoral dissertation of Master of Law Valentine Berthet in the field of Social Sciences, titled The discursive politics of gendered violence and bodily rights in the European Parliament will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tampere University at 12 o’clock on Friday, 23 September 2022. The public examination will be arranged in the Väinö Linna auditorium of the Linna building, address: Kalevantie 5, Tampere University. The Opponent will be Professor of Political Science Mona Lena Krook from Rutgers University while Professor Johanna Kantola from Tampere University’s Faculty of Social Sciences will act as the custos.
The dissertation is available online at https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-2527-5.
Photo: Mikko Luukkanen