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June 25th 2010 Speech at the European Council


Honourable Chair,

I am very pleased with the report "Combating sexist stereotypes in media." The subject is very much present in our daily life.

Media works in the way what it thinks sells the best. It often represents women in roles traditionally assigned by society. It means women are presented as passive or lesser beings. They are often presented as sexual objects.

The more people see these kinds of images, the more they read sexist stories, the more they get used to it. Sexism and discriminatory practises become what people consider as "normal". It is not acceptable and it establishes a barrier to gender equality. The sexist attitude towards women occurs in all age groups and in all social classes.

In this debate we’ve already heard stories and examples from different countries. I have a recent story to tell to you from Finland which, in fact, should be one of the most equal countries in the World.  We just got a new female prime minister who is extremely prominent, experienced and educated. Almost the first thing that was written about her concerned her body figure. In one yellow paper there was picture of her, taken from behind, and text telling that she has a body of a beauty queen. The way the story was written was in my opinion pejorative and its aim was clearly to reduce our new prime minister's credibility. Freedom of speech is a good thing but using it to promote sexist stereotypes is not acceptable. The media has a task to promote human dignity but by producing sexist stories it in fact produces a base for discrimination.

Media has a chance to promote gender equality. I support the suggestion of inviting member states of the Parliamentary Assembly to promote training, education and awareness-raising action to strengthen women’s visibility in the media. Especially welcomed is the European code of good practise for member states and handbook for the media for the strategies to combat gender stereotypes in the media. There is absolutely a need for common rules in this matter. The fight against gender stereotypes is a part of fighting against gender-based violence. As we need more concrete actions in promoting gender-neutral attitude I strongly support the motion of inviting the Committee of Ministers to draft a new protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights where gender equality should be established as a fundamental right.

The national parliaments are not weaponless in this matter. They can combat sexist stereotypes by adopting legal measures to penalise sexist remarks. The national parliaments themselves can encourage their members to adopt non-sexist language, as mentioned in the report. Parliamentarians who decree the laws should self act as good examples.

Not only the parliaments also the media has a task to do. It absolutely should favour more balanced representation of women. The goal of gender equality can be reached with the cooperation of all sides. The think-thanks to promote equality between men and women are needed. The situation of sexist stereotypes in media varies in different countries. But I think it’s difficult to find absolutely sexist-neutral country. That is why the topic of this report is extremely important.

I strongly support the report and its adaptation.