Equal Rights, feminist, London, prostitution, Sex Trade, Sexual Equality, Trade Unions, Women MPs, Women's Rights

I was delighted to be invited to speak, on work undertaken in the EU on prostitution, at the launch of OBJECT and eaves’ new DEMAND CHANGE! campaign in Parliament yesterday afternoon.

Two powerful and inspiring organisations, OBJECT, is a campaigning organisation which is fundamentally against the objectification of women. And eaves is a London based feminist charity that provides supported housing to vulnerable women, women trafficked into prostitution, and those who have experienced domestic violence.

The new joint initiative between eaves and OBJECT – DEMAND CHANGE! – aims to promote an increased understanding of the myths and realities surrounding prostitution; calls for prostitution to be seen and widely understood as a form of violence against women; and is lobbying for the adoption of the ‘Nordic model’ of tackling demand and decriminalising women in prostitution.

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

As an ardent supporter of the Nordic model, of tackling trafficking and violence against women through prostitution by criminalising the purchase of sex, I wholly support the DEMAND CHANGE! campaign and its aims. I believe campaigns such as these are key to changing the public perceptions and entrenched cultural attitudes towards the sale of women’s bodies for sex, which is  is the only route towards the UK adopting the Nordic model to reduce this intolerable violence against women, children and men.

This event was a great opportunity to take back the battle ground on prostitution from the garish vocalists for pimps and punters The English Collection of Prostitutes and the International Union of Sex Workers. Who interestingly, now that legislation on lap-dancing clubs and prostitution have now passed out of the Commons, were not present at the event. A key indication of the sorts of people that are behind these frighteningly naive organisations, which deny figures on trafficking and offer up prostitution as a feminist choice when the clear reality is that no one would ever wish this destructive and demeaning career  on anyone whom they cared about.

In my speech I discussed the European Parliament’s women’s committee’s inability to agree on the issue of prostitution due to the very varied legislation of each member state. As heated debate on the topic of the health of prostitutes, in the socialist group of the FEMM committee, showed last year, prostitution remains the last great feminist taboo.

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg


Sexual Equality, Tory Boy, Women MPs, Women's Rights, workers' rights

How David Cameron’s conference stage has become a women-free zone

Cameron's sea of black suited males

Cameron's sea of black suited males

A frightening glimpse of what could be….The Times front page story today shamed the Tories for their serious downgrading of women within the party. Cameron has not included a single woman in his testosterone fuelled team to fight Labour over the economy.

This comes as no suprise to me – I have long criticised the Tories for their frightening lack of female representation in the European Parliament: just one woman MEP out of a team of 27. None of which think that attending  the European parliamentary committee for gender and sexual equality is worth their effort. Despite the serious reports on trafficking, violence against women and legislation on maternity leave that come out of there. This shows the reality of where Tory priorities lie.

David Cameron lying back in 2006 that he was going to do more to promote women in the party...

David Cameron lying back in 2006 that he was going to do more to promote women in the party...three years on and just four members of his shadow cabinet are women

Now the Times are picking up on this frightening phenomenon, their leader this morning says that “…the lack of female Tory MPs puts a question mark against the party”. Too right it does. The reality is there for all to see – behind the shiny facade of Cameron is a party that completly unrepresentative of the UK in terms of class, ethnicity and gender. Nothing has changed and despite PR photo shoots and false promises to the contrary nothing ever will.


Women MPs, Women's Rights

In the run-up to the Euro elections, One World Action is running a More Women More Power campaign, which aims to both challenge and highlight the relatively low number of women represented in public and political life.  Since women’s political representation is an issue dear to my heart, I am asking for as many signatures as possible for One World Action’s e-pledge which commits signers to advocating whenever possible for the full inclusion and representation of women in our own parliaments and international bodies. It will only take a couple of minutes to sign, but would make a big difference to the organisation!



If any of you have any further questions about the One World Campaign or what what they do at One World Action or are interested in taking the message of women’s political inclusion further, please get in touch with them.

Sign the More Women More Power Pledge!
Support women’s political participation worldwide.

One World Action is a company registered in England and Wales (registered number 2822893) with its registered office at Bradley’s Close, 74/77 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF, UK and is a registered charity (no. 1022298).Phone +44 (0)20 7833 4075 / Fax +44 (0)20 7833 4102


Women MPs, Women's Rights

I wrote THIS piece for the Guardian yesterday, following Harriet Harman’s visit to the European Parliament.

It was great that Harriet has started debate on this topic. I look forward to working with her and the PES women to ensure that we do the best for the women of Europe as this recession bites.


Nia Griffith, Mary Honeyball, Harriet Harman, Zita Gurmai, Emine Bozkurt


Women MPs
Last week I had a meeting with Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and a group of female MEPs to discuss ways of getting more women into senior jobs in the European Union. At the moment the top jobs in each of the European Institutions (Parliament, Commission and Council) are held by men. The European Parliament is currently made up of only 30% women. The Commission fairs only slightly better with just 33% being women. Whichever way you look at it – that can’t be good for representative democracy.

With European elections coming up in 2009, Commissioner Wallstrom has launched an initiative called the Inter-Institutional Network of Women to try and address this lack of female representation in European politics.

You can find out more about the campaign at

At the meeting we also discussed ways of increasing turnout of women at European elections.

It’s also worth pointing out that whilst 30% female representation is pretty bad, some parties fair a lot worse that others. UKIP have no female representation in the European Parliament – they are an entirely male delegation. The Tories have just one female MEP out of a group of 28 MEPs. That’s just 4% women – only marginally better than the percentage of women in Parliament in Iran!


Commission, Margot Wallstrom, Sarkozy, Women MPs

In July the French take over the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers. This means that for better or worse we’ll be seeing a lot more of President Sarkozy over the next six months.

According to The European Voice, “France is planning a grand symbolic gesture to launch its presidency of the Council of Ministers.” On 1st July women representatives of each Member State hope to climb Mont Blanc.

Rather than a “grand symbolic gesture”, wouldn’t it be more productive if President Sarkozy threw his weight behind a campaign, that I’ve signed up to, called Females in Front which hopes to promote more women into the top positions in the European Union. With women making up over half the population of the EU it is a disgrace that we are so under represented at the top.

How different things could have been had Segolene Royal been elected President.

Commissioner Margot Wallstrom has also blogged about this

Please sign the petition on the Females in Front website:


Conservative, Emily's List, Nadine Dorries, Women MPs

We are all waking up to David Cameron’s anti-woman agenda. Although he hides it well with plausibly warm words, the modern Tory Party is no more in favour of equal opportunities than its previous incarnations. Take the abortion time limit. Cameron has decided to vote to lower the legal limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill comes before the Commons in a few weeks.

According to the sycophantic “Daily Mail” the reason he has stuck his neck out on such a contentious issue is the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries. You will remember that the delightful Ms Dorries is the woman who took “Emily’s List”, the organisation which provides funds for Labour women to get selected for parliament, to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. The grounds – Emily’s List requires those it helps to state that they are in favour of a woman’s right to choose. The delectable Dorries claimed this was bribery to vote a certain way. Needless to say, the Standards Commissioner saw Dorries’s complaint for what it was and rejected it.

Her latest nonsense is to attack the Government’s relaxed approach to sex education. Yes, you’ve guessed it – sex education encourages young people to have sex. Dorries has either not seen or willfully ignored evidence from the Netherlands and elsewhere that sex education reduces teenage pregnancies. Surely even she would think this is what we should be aiming for. Just in case you haven’t clocked it, Nadine Dorries is a right-wing Christian evangelist. “I try to live like a Christian. I try not to lie, to help others.” She told the Daily Mail. She is also on record as saying that she sees evil in late abortion. She would do better to be less focused on evil and more humanitarian in her approach.


Conservative, Hazel Blears, Women MPs

The Tories are still making noises about getting more Tory women into Westminster and having more women on their front bench. Mr Cameron wants two of the final four candidates in each Westminster selection to be female. He has also said he will increase the number of women on his priority list from 50% to 60%.

Hazel Blears is on record as saying that the changes will fail to change the Tories and that the Conservative Party is still failing women. You only need to look at the Tories in the European Parliament to see the real proof of just how true that is. There is only one woman Conservative MEP and she is standing down at the European elections next year. In the 2004 Euro elections there were two regional lists which did not include any women at all.

The Tories will complete their selections for the next European elections very soon. It will be interesting to see whether David Cameron’s fine words have any substance.


Harriet Harman, Labour Spring Conference, Women MPs

5th March 2008

Spring Conference was a good event this year for Europe. The Party agreed that European legislation and policy would be an integral party of each session and that MEPs would attend the policy seminars on the top table with Ministers. As you can imagine, this was very well received by all the MEPs. Our legislative work has a real impact on everyone’s life in the UK. Maybe European Directives and the processes by which they are debated and agreed is at last getting the right level of recognition.

I was fortunate to speak in three sessions: the closing Women’s Plenary on trafficking of human beings with Harriet Harman MP, Barbara Keeley MP and Marianne Mikko, one of my MEP colleagues from Estonia. I also addressed the Education Policy Seminar in my capacity as Spokesperson on Culture and Education, and a workshop on women and the web, discussing uses for new technology.

The EPLP organised a session for the European candidates on the Sunday morning. This was a good event, and it was cheering to see a number of candidates there. No doubt we shall see much more of each other during the next year or so.