[Statement of the European Women’s Lobby, Brussels, 27 June 2016] We are in deep shock and sorrow over the brutal murder of British MP Jo Cox. “Jo was a dear personal friend of mine and was exactly the kind of person you hoped would go into politics: an extraordinary, brilliant and fearless feminist propelled by a passion for women’s rights and social justice, and driven by a belief that we can and must fight for a safer, fairer and more equal world.” says EWL Secretary General Joanna Maycock.
Jo was a feminist and she strove for women’s rights and the advancement of women in politics. As Chair of Labour Women’s Network she led efforts to secure the election of more women to public office at every level and she lent her voice to campaigns to end violence against women. Women in politics around the world face daily threats of violence for simply doing the work they do. We need to recognise the immense debt of gratitude we owe to women like Jo: with her courage to push the boundaries on behalf of anyone and everyone who seeks social justice. “If we want to build the kind of politics that Jo stood for, we must stand up to demand immediate action on violence against women in politics.” says EWL President Edith Schratzberger –Vecsei
It is not only about getting more women into parliaments - although that matters – it is about encouraging a culture that enables women to participate in public and civic life more generally – in community leadership, in women’s organisations, in trade unions and in political parties. It is about transforming our organisational and political culture and institutions so that women can thrive within them; safe from harassment, safe from sexism, safe from violence and able to play a true leadership role.
The man who has been charged with murdering Jo had links to far right movements in the UK. These movements are on the rise across Europe and they are having a chilling influence on the broader political climate and debate. As Jo’s husband Brendan has written “our mainstream parties, petrified by the rise of the populists try to neuter them by taking their ground and aping their rhetoric. Far from closing down the debates, these steps legitimize their views, reinforce their frames and pull the debate further to the extremists”. Europe’s mainstream political parties must stand up and be counted to act against far right politics and rhetoric. Progressive political parties need a firm and unwavering return to their values of justice, equality and women’s rights. They must not cow to right wing rhetoric on immigration or gender equality, but must push harder for true equality and justice.
As the European Women’s Lobby, we are launching an initiative to map the far right political parties and movements across Europe to better understand and expose the misogynist and violent core of their messages and intent, and propose actions to counter that.
Jo Cox was a victim of the most brutal kind of male violence against women. Jo was killed for her beliefs, because she believed that there is more that unites us than divides us. She was killed by a man seeking to divide us. But this must strengthen our resolve to strive still harder for the values we cherish of unity, social justice, equality, internationalism. We will meet hate with love and show that we have #moreincommon