EU must not be 'held hostage' over gay and women's rights

Those who believe in Europe's founding principles of human dignity and equality must 'mobilise' against conservative lobbying, urges Kartika Tamara Liotard.

The latest in a line of extremist attacks against women's and gay rights in Europe and an example of the anachronistic conservatism in today's European Union is the ongoing 'One of Us' group of European citizens.

In a hearing at the European parliament on 10 April, the perpetrators of the 'One of Us' initiative argued that European development aid agencies should stop financing any maternal health activities directly or indirectly leading to abortion and called for a full halt to all funding on research that has to do with human embryo stem cells.

"Trying to impose personal, religious beliefs on public policies regardless of whether or not the millions of people affected share the same beliefs is undemocratic"

There are political, legal and even moral reasons why progressive MEPs should be vigilant and firmly oppose 'One of Us'. But I will emphasise here the medical and health reasons. Suspending over €87m per year in EU funds allocated to maternal health projects in developing countries would have devastating consequences on family planning and prenatal healthcare. Even more women than the current 800 would die every day in those countries due to pregnancy and childbirth complications.

Evidence shows that denying safe and legal family planning and abortion services to women will only increase the number of abortions. Furthermore, the EU must keep funding human embryonic stem cell research as they raise high therapeutic hopes for a number of very serious degenerative diseases.

Parliament has been facing a conservative backlash against women and gay rights for months. Following fierce and even brutal lobbying from an ultra-religious multinational coalition, the plenary rejected in March a legislative resolution on gender equality. Once again, the conservatives (EPP, ECR, and EFD) had the final word in the hemicycle on gender equality only a short while after international women's day.

A couple of months earlier, they had already driven the plenary to the rejection of a report on sexual and reproductive rights. In February, despite being approved by a majority of MEPS, a resolution on securing the basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in the EU was the target of tens of thousands of spam emails sent from several European capitals by very angry, sometimes rude people.

Parliament is no longer the focus just for big business lobbying but also for social and rights issues. The conservative religious lobby has found it but Europe cannot afford to be held hostage. Trying to impose personal, religious beliefs on public policies regardless of whether or not the millions of people affected share the same beliefs is undemocratic.

The time has come for the pro-gender equality and pro-LGBTI rights camp to mobilise itself and take a firm grip against those who attack the EU's founding principles of human dignity, freedom, equality and non-discrimination.


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