By Ruth Marsden - 22nd January 2013
We all agree that there is no country in Europe where violence against women is not a problem
Irish minister of state for equality Kathleen Lynch has announced that she will be pushing for "tight, firm conclusions" on violence against women during Ireland's EU council presidency.
Speaking at a meeting of parliament's women's rights and gender equality committee, Lynch said, "We all agree that there is no country in Europe where violence against women is not a problem."
Lynch, the minister responsible for disability, equality, mental health and older people, was in parliament on Tuesday to discuss Ireland's EU council priorities for the next six months.
She warned that, "Violence against women continues to be a significant challenge in member states. We need to take a serious look at this issue.
"Why is it considered ok to be violent towards women? It's not ok."
Lynch announced that she will be delivering an EU statement on the issue at the 57th UN commission on the status of women meeting in March, whose priority theme is the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
"After the failure of the 56th meeting, all parties are aware this one will be a challenge," Lynch said.
The Irish official went on to say that women's rights and gender equality are also essential for the economy, adding that there will be a focus on gender equality in economic engagement in the EU 2020 agenda.
"Equality should not be seen as a cost, but a vital component. Gender equality is vital for economic growth, prosperity and competition," Lynch argued.
She added, "We must forge a way to maximise opportunities. It makes sense that we all cooperate and maximise the opportunities for our women.
"Our global competitors are more advanced than Europe when it comes to this. We need to deal with this and look beyond the current crisis."
Lynch also announced that she expects the presidency to continue with the commission's work on women on boards, saying, "Some member states have already put quotas in place, however others, including Ireland, are still in single digits.
"We will work with member states to ensure fairness and encourage progress in this area.
"As Ireland takes up its seventh EU council presidency and celebrates its 40th anniversary of Ireland's accession to the economic community, I am looking forward to expanding the debate on women's rights and gender equality," Lynch said.
Bulgarian MEP Mariya Gabriel welcomed Lynch's comments and the Irish presidency' plans to focus on women, saying, "These issues will loom large in this committee."
S&D deputy Britta Thomsen said, "Irish women are very inspiring. We have seen lots of admirable changes in Ireland, along with Denmark, and we would like your support to stop violence against women and have our own EU directive."
ALDE group vice chair Antonyia Parvanova said that Ireland's participation in the UN commission on the status of women meeting is "a strong commitment of [Ireland's] ambition", adding that if a resolution is agreed on the eradication on violence against women, the EU would support it.
Spanish MEP Raül Romeva i Rueda told Lynch he would like to see movement on the gender pay gap issue, especially on "how the crisis has been used in order to reduce the rights of women in the labour market".
While Elisabeth Morin-Chartier said a focus should also be put on young women, "who find it much more difficult in finding a place on the labour market than their colleagues".
The EPP deputy stressed, "We need progress in how these women get into the labour market, equal pay and equality of career progression."
Edite Estrela, a vice-chair of the women's rights and gender equality committee, argued that the EU also needs policies to support maternity leave.
"We're faced with an ageing population and low birth rates. This is not just a problem for women, but society as a whole," she added.