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Nationalist parties' family policy is generally deeply conservative. They put forward, for example, initiatives that make women financially dependent on their men, which makes it hard for women to leave violent relationships. Illustration: Malin Erixon.
Nationalist parties' family policy is generally deeply conservative. They put forward, for example, initiatives that make women financially dependent on their men, which makes it hard for women to leave violent relationships. Illustration: Malin Erixon.

Nationalism in Europe threatens women's rights

Many European nationalist parties profile themselves as being the only one that cares for their country’s women. But in reality their policies threatens rights that women’s movements have spent centuries of hard work to push through, shows The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s study Patriotism and Patriarchy.

“We are very concerned about the increased influence of nationalist parties and its effect on gender equality. This new wave of European nationalism basically reduces women to stay at home and take care of the family,” says Lena Ag, Secretary General at Kvinna till Kvinna.

Patriotism and Patriarchy is a cooperation between Kvinna till Kvinna and The Expo Foundation, which has been working with assessing and monitoring the Swedish and European far-right movements for almost 20 years.

The study shows how nationalism has left its mark on the Balkan countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, where women are being pressured to become housewifes, at the same time as their situation on the labour market is steadily deteriorating. It also takes a look at five other European countries and their largest nationalist parties. And the findings are disheartening. Bit by bit nationalists attack rights and freedoms that women have spent decades fighting for, like the right to free abortions and the right to compete on equal terms with men on the labour market.

Women human rights defenders in Europe also testify about the opposition to their work becoming increasingly direct, in the form of physical violence, hate campaigns and threats in social media.

“For nationalist parties gender equality has never been a goal. Rather they regard feminism as a threat that destroys the nation,” says Daniel Poohl, President of The Expo Foundation.

Impact of nationalism on gender equality:

  • Gender equality issues are never prioritised by the na­tionalist parties. They are often excluded from their poli­cies.
  • Several of the parties believe that there are biological differences between men and women, meaning that it is natural for women to engage in care-taking tasks, for example, both at home and in working life.
  • The nuclear family is regarded as the foundation of society, which means that it is difficult to live in non-tradi­tional family relations. LGBTQ persons often face discrimi­nation in nationalist parties’ policies. They are denied the right to marriage, insemination and adoption, for example.
  • Political initiatives for the family are generally designed in a way that envisage women staying at home with the children, while men have a paying job. Traditional gender roles are thereby reinforced.
  • Family policies that make women financially dependent on men make it hard for women to leave violent relation­ships.
  • As demography and child-bearing are important to nationalist parties, there is often a strong desire to limit the abortion right for women. Some parties want to ban abortion completely.
  • LGBTQ persons and women’s rights defenders who challenge traditional gender roles face opposition, har­assment and ridicule.
  • In the European Parliament, the nationalist parties of­ten vote in favour of conservative proposals, and they hardly ever support initiatives to strengthen the rights of women or LGBTQ persons.

Updated in: 2014-06-12