The EP Women’s Rights Committee

Since this was the first week for me as an intern at WYA, Women’s Rights Committee offered me, among other things such as getting to know the current ideas about maternity leave, the chance to get a slight insight into the Parliament. I was rather impressed by its dimension, by the library and by the way every detail is organized and actually works.

However, the reason why we got there was, as I already mentioned above, a public hearing, held by the EP Women’s Rights Committee, treating the proposal of 3rd October 2008 to extend maternity leave to 18 months.
Anna Zaborska, who was chairing the committee gave a little introduction and welcomed all the attending MEPs, such as Heidi Lougheed, who argued on the current 14-week period, Christa Klaß, Edit Bauer, Eva-Britt Svensson, Catelene Passchier, Ninetta Zoi and Edite Estrela, who pointed out, by the end of the debate, that women must not be overprotected.

Also present were Vladimir Spidla, the Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, who had to leave the debate earlier, and Michal Sedláček, the Czech European affairs minister, who argued for “a review of the directive in order to protect women better”.
Fátima Duarte, chair of Portugal’s Committee for Equality in Employment, had a long speech where she outlined the importance of maternity leave being shared with the father. As Birgitta Åseskog, adviser at the Swedish Ministry for Integration and Gender Equality, later explained, this was already the case in Sweden, where a flexible legislation allows both mother and father to stay home during the child’s first year.

I had the impression that the whole debate somehow demonstrated the conflict between women’s right to choose whether to stay home or to keep on working and the children’s right to be raised up by their parents.

Written by Teresa Czernin