March 2011

International Women’s Day

March 8th marked the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. Whilst reflecting on the progress made by women, particularly in the UK, I found it somewhat ironic that on this day a Romanian MEP, Rovana Plumb, tabled a report calling for positive discrimination for women in social, economic, and political matters.

This is a retrograde step for women. Even positive discrimination creates victims, and true equality requires that there be absolutely no discrimination at all. There are still hurdles to be overcome by women, even in the most developed societies. Let us break those barriers down - don't patronise us with positive discrimination.


Paralympic Games

I was particularly delighted to be invited to meet with paralympic athletes in Strasbourg this week. Both are presently in training for London next year, and have real chances of winning medals in the shooting events.

I was hugely impressed by the efforts being put in not only by the athletes, but also by various people in the media and in the German government in order to promote the paralympics. and raise public awareness of the events. I was also pleased that Conservative and Labours MEPs were able to join me in putting party politics aside and supporting the athletes.

I look forward to supporting the paralympics later this month at a meeting in London.


Invisible Smiles - Highlighting A Disturbing New Phenomenom

Tuesday March 8th was the 100th anniversary of International Women's day. The Parliament fell over themselves to make all the women MEP´s feel special by giving us red roses and small pot plants. But for 30 minutes that afternoon I attended a meeting with. and gave my support to, campaigners highlighting a growing and troubling issue - Acid violence against women.

This atrocious act, is a new phenomenon and is prevalent in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda and India but can alo be found in Europe too. At a conservative estimate at least 5000 cases a year with 70% of the women being under the age of 25. These attacks are `honour` reprisals for when a young woman has ´dishonoured´ her family even in the most minor way.

In more than 40% of cases acid scaring is carried out by the Women´s partner or former partner. Even parents and siblings are perpetrators. The damage caused by acid is irreversible. Each patient has to undergo between 6 and 30 operations.  The injuries are devastating and leave an indelible psychological mark on the victim.

I spoke with Jacqueline Thibault, President of the foundation ´SURGIR´ today about this. She is calling for support for programs such as one in Switzerland that deals with the aftermath of these crimes by helping victims to recover their lives and their dignity.

I was interested to discover from Ms. Thibault that the UK authorities are very progressive in dealing with these matters with police forces retrospectively going through their records to reinvestigate such crimes. She told me there were 12 instances a year in the UK - 12 too many


Press around Europe

In the UK we are well aware of the problem of politicians abusing their expenses and allowances. However, it is worth keeping the issue alive, which is why I chose recently to cooperate with the British press in exposing abuse of expenses by MEPs. As well as British Conservative and Labour MEPs, we caught a number of others in our net.
This week the story exploded in Spain, where one of their MEPs had been caught by our cameras signing for her daily allowance in the morning, and then leaving straight away for the airport.
I have been inundated with calls from the Spanish media, and also with e-mails from Spanish citizens thanking me for bringing the matter to public attention.
We must not only fight the EU at home, but if we can spread dissent to other member states as well then we can fight on more than one front.

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