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French feminists join campaign against EU Fiscal Compact

French feminists have joined a growing campaign against a new EU treaty arguing that women would be in the frontline of a scary new world of ‘permanent austerity’ .

The Fiscal Compact, set to be tabled for a vote in the National Assembly in October,  would threaten women’s rights and ‘exacerbate gender inequalities’ as cuts are made to services for sexual and reproductive health, grants to organisations fighting violence against women, and maternity and abortion clinics closed, argue some forty leading French women activists in a joint statement.

Women are already the ‘hardest hit by austerity measures’, because of cuts to public services and social protection, and the fact they predominate among the casualised workforce, and so are the first to be fired or see their wages or conditions cut, according to the statement, signed by left politicians, trade unionists, economists, academics and human rights campaigners.

The fact that women are also the main carers in a sizeable majorities of households adds to their vulnerability to public spending and welfare cuts, and economic crisis, they add.

The joint statement says:  ‘Massive public investments are essential for social protection, employment and public services to meet social and environmental needs and reduce inequalities, but the Pact permanently restricts public finances and blocks measures that lead to social progress.

‘With inequalities between women and men more unacceptable than ever, it is urgent to create a network of public nurseries and support services for the elderly strengthen social services and health boosting investment in staffing and other resources. But this pact, by making austerity policies permanent, will exacerbate gender inequalities.’

‘We reject the budget pact as it condemns the future, sacrifices democracy and the well-being of the population to satisfy the requirements of the financial markets.

‘We call for the construction of a resistance movement and alternatives to austerity in France and Europe. We call for feminist alternatives for another Europe.’

The signatories are urging people to rally behind a national demonstration on 30 September led by the radical Left Front.

The EU Fiscal Compact, backed by the Socialist government of President Francois Hollande, although opposed by him when campaigning earlier this year for France’s top job, threatens to split the ruling Socialist Party in a repeat of the EU Constitution debacle in 2005. It may also create difficulties with key socialist allies, the Greens, whose official position is opposed.

A majority of French want a referendum on the matter, one recent poll shows.

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