Feminists lobby Elysée candidates

Pressure mounts on the presidential hopefuls today - International Women’s Day - to state their equality policies

INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day today will see lobbying hotting up for the presidential candidates over their plans for ensuring gender equality.

Many feminist organisations are organising rallies and debates today and they have started to put pressure on the presidential hopefuls.

An LH2 survey for Yahoo has shown that Socialist François Hollande is seen as the candidate who would do the most to favour equality (22%), followed by Sarkozy (13%), Bayrou (11%) and Le Pen (10%).

Hollande is the candidate who has spoken most on the issue, stating he would set up a ministry of women’s rights attached to the prime minister’s office. One formerly existed under the presidency of François Mitterand.

He would also increase sanctions against political parties not respecting a law which requires them to present roughly equal numbers of male and female candidates at parliamentary elections. They already have their state funding reduced; Hollande would cut it completely.

He added “it would be a good principle to have as many women as men in a government” and that large firms found to be not respecting equal pay rules would lose the right to certain exonerations from social charges on work.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been less outspoken and last year questioned the usefulness of International Women’s Day, saying “the essential thing is to find work for both men and women”.

Historian Françoise Picq said in Le Nouvel Observateur: “The day means that at least once a year there is a chance to look at the record on conditions for women”, adding that on the occasion “politicians feel they need to make promises”.

UMP Party MP Marie-Zo Zimmermann has said progress is being made in business after the passing of the “Copé-Zimmermann law” a year ago, which called for at least 20% of women on boards of large firms by 2014 and 40% by 2017. The first target was beaten, at 20.8% by the end of last year. France now has the best record in the OECD, after Norway and Sweden.

International Women’s Day on March 8 has its origins in worker’s movements early last century but was officially adopted by the UN in 1977.