Since the time of the suffragettes, women's rights have been at the forefront of campaigns, and legislative changes. Equality is no longer desirable but a necessity within our society. However when we leave the European Union will the rights certain directives secure for women still be ensured. Within the European Union itself it could be argued that sexism is rampant, Jean-Claude Juncker has preached about equality and harmonisation but he has rarely acted to secure women rights. With only 9 of his 28 commissioners being female and with the UK and after it was found that within the European Council that women were paid on average £12,792 less than men a year do we really think that European Union values women at their rights? This of course does not take away from some of the directives that could be seen as advocating women's rights. Even on directives passed by the European Union the UK does surpass the targets set. But after we leave;, theoretically the government could repeal these laws leaving us with no rights. Of course under Theresa May this will not happen. But somebody could take away our rights to equal pay, maternity leave and many other rights women in the UK enjoy by just simply repealing the legislation when we leave the European Union.
The expansion of the EU is a worrying prospect. Expanding east toward Turkey, Serbia and Albania in my opinion is a threat to women's rights, it is important to not only focus inwards on ourselves but have a global outlook after Brexit and continue our proven track record as a country of securing women's rights. The outlook of eastern European countries towards women is sliding backwards and they are unlikely to become champions of women rights. The president of Turkey strikes down abortions and calls birth control "treason" while 50% of the people living in Serbia do not believe men and women are equal and in Albania the idea of marital rape is a crime is rejected. The Cologne sex attacks indicate towards a change in the behaviour towards women during the migrant crisis which resulted in women only carriages on trains as a safety precaution which can only be seen as gender apartheid. This is an underlying and unavoidable message that is it better to segregate than teach. It is more of a pragmatic solution that the one that is needed. Cologne is obviously in an affluent country, Germany. But what about those in Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia? There women in poorer EU countries are in desperate poverty and hardship and are seeing no help from the EU. The open-border Schengen area has begun an explosion of people trafficking and women being sold and transported for prostitution. No controls, no passport checks meaning no safety net for these incredibly frightened and vulnerable women. It could be argued that these women are being failed by the European Union and that the EU has allowed this 4 billion pound industry to triumph.
People will ask how does this affect Brexit? It affects us as a country as we are unlikely to stand by and allow these evils to continue. We need to push regardless of our membership of the EU for protections for these women. But also our own women. We need to punish these offenders more vigorously and help victims of these vile acts and trades. In my opinion there are three crucial EU directives that need to continue to be cemented in UK law. These relate to maternity rights, pay equality, equality in accessing social security and equality in access to goods and services. The first is enshrined in the treaty of the functions of the European Union.
Our maternity rights exceed those set out in directive 92/85/EEC. The maternity rights of those two are registered as self employed are set out in 2010/41/EU. It gives them an allowance of 14 weeks and allows them to claim benefits from the state (where applicable in the member state). These directives are cemented in British law by the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999. It also gave the additional allowance of 39 weeks paid maternity leave with an optional extra of 13 weeks unpaid. This gives the opinion what the UK supersedes the EU on maternity rights but this needs to be kept after we leave the European Union as the implementations of reducing or revoking maternity rights are practically unthinkable.
The directive 2006/54/EC ensures that all member states ensure equal pay across genders it also prohibits direct and indirect discrimination in relation to pay as well as discrimination in job application classification systems used to determine pay. It also forces member states to eradicate all discrimination from the laws of their state and ensure that men and women are treated equally with regard to access to different services, employment and training. It also prohibits harassment, sexual harassment, instructions to discriminate in the workplace and less favourable treatment of a women because of pregnancy or maternity leave. It also states that women and men must be treated equally in occupational social security schemes. It applies directly to schemes protecting against the risk of sickness, invalidity, old age - including early retirement, industrial accidents, occupational diseases and unemployment and also covers survivors benefits and family allowance. It allows different conditions for different sexes.
The directive 2004/113/EC states that women and men must both are fair access in both the private and public sectors that make goods and services available to the public. It applies to all people and organisations that make goods or services available to the public. It also makes every EU country have at least one body responsible for promoting equal treatment between women and men, in the UK this is the Women and Equalities department which is headed up my Justine Greening MP.
In conclusion it is clear to anyone that although the EU does have its issues with enforcing equality internally and inside its member states they still have created legislation which is necessary for us to move forward even further towards equality. When the government finalises this countries exit from the European Union it must not forget that equality is a necessity in our society and must not forget minorities rights during the hustle and bustle to recreate legislation.