Respect. In disrespecting one woman, all women are disrespected.

[09 April 2021, Brussels] On 6 April, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, met in Ankara with the President of the Turkish Government, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, in what seems to have been a deliberate diplomatic slight, there was no chair for her to sit at the official meeting.

Sadly, this is representative of the way in which deeply rooted sexist attitudes affect women in all areas of life: in politics, in the workplace and in the wider society.

The prevalence of everyday sexism continues to suppress and oppress women and girls; it aims to silence them and keep them in a subordinate place. We are clear that male violence against women is enrooted in a culture of sexism in our societies, and it is only through holistic structural reforms across all areas of work, culture and social life that we can eradicate this shadow-pandemic.

The European Women’s Lobby condemns the sexist attitude of the Turkish government in disrespecting one of the main leaders of the EU, the first ever woman President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The Turkish government’s growing attitudes of disrespect for the rights of all women and girls are apparent, including most recently through the announcement of its intention to withdraw from the Convention for the Prevention and Combating of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence - Istanbul Convention.

The failure of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to adequately react in this sad episode is dismaying. In his lack of reaction, he is complicit with the Turkish government’s disrespectful attitude toward the President of the European Commission and all women she represents. The President of the European Council fell far short of his obligation to uphold and embody the values of the European Union to respect and advance equality between women and men.

We expect all EU Member States and the European Parliament to strongly condemn the attitude of the Turkish government that affects not only the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, but the dignity of the position she holds, and that of all women and girls.

Furthermore, we call on all EU Member States to pass legislation in line with the CoE’s Committee of Ministers’ adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)1 – Preventing and Combating Sexism. In line with the EWL collaborative project supported by the Council of Europe #MobiliseAgainstSexism together with nine national coordination members from Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and Spain.

We call on the EU to act in a united way to protect women and girls and end all forms of male violence. The EU and Member States need to ratify the Istanbul Convention and ensure that its provisions are implemented consistently everywhere in the EU at all times. The EU urgently needs legislation to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls in the form of a comprehensive Directive on all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual exploitation and online violence.

We also call on the Member States to adopt legislation to ensure equal representation of all women in all decision-making spheres, and to demand from the Council to unblock the Women on Boards Directive.

Women around Europe cannot wait longer for equal treatment of women and girls as enshrined in the Treaties. European Women’s Lobby welcomes the European Commission’s proposed Directive on Equal Pay and calls on the EU Member States to support this proposal.

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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