The President of the EU has today announced that Polish MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke will be disciplined following offensive, sexist remarks during an EU debate on the gender pay gap last week.
Korwin-Mikke had opened his speech by explaining that there are no women ranked in the top 800 of a physics olympiad in Poland – an annual physics competition for students. He said:
“Do you know which was the place in the Polish theoretical Physics Olympiad, the first place of women, of girls? I can tell you – 800th. Do you know how many women are in the first 100 chess players? I can tell you – not one.”
“Of course women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent. They must earn less, that’s all.”
He went on to describe the gender pay gap as a “20th-century stereotype that women have the same intellectual potential as men,” and that the stereotype “must be destroyed because it is not true.”
His remarks caused an outcry, both inside and outside parliament.
Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia Perez angrily retorted:
“According to your theory, I should not have the right to be here, as a member of this parliament.”
“And I know it hurts you, I know it hurts and worries you, that today women can sit in this house and represent European citizens with the same rights as you. I am here to defend all European women from men like you.”
EU Commissioner Vera Jourova said politicians like Mr Korwin-Mikke perpetuate the gender pay gap by making remarks which “demonstrate the lack of respect to women”.
“We heard here several men. The one who offended all of us reminded me of my discussion which I had last year in New York with one African minister who had very similar opinions.
“And I realised how happy I am that I live in Europe which, although we have all the problems, is a good address for women because the vast majority of us agree that there must be full respect for women and no reason for keeping the pay gap.”
The EU president, Antonio Tajani announced to loud applause that he has opened an investigation into the MP’s conduct and warned the MEP will receive commensurate punishment, which could include a reprimand, a fine or a temporary suspension. President Tajani said that Korwin-Mikke’s language, which “offended every woman in this house” will not be tolerated, and stressed that the EU will not be able to tackle problems such as terrorism, unemployment and poverty unless it respects and enforces women’s rights, and urged EU member states to ratify and enforce the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women.