Kirsten Lühmann, Chairwoman of the Committee on Women’s Rights on the Coronavirus

“Another catastrophe that’s hitting women hard”

Kirsten Lühmann, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Women’s Rights (FEMM), which is part of CESI (European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions), spoke on Monday about the specific ways the coronavirus pandemic is affecting women. Attention needed to be paid to the particular situation of women when it came to the compensatory and aid measures offered by the state, she observed. “The EU member states must agree on shared guidelines in their fight against the virus. This also goes for the types of social and economic programmes which affect women first and foremost”, the FEMM Chair continued.

“The bans on going out, which many member states have imposed, are hitting many women hard. All people are finding themselves under huge pressure in this unprecedented situation. We have already witnessed an increase in domestic violence, which is mostly directed at women and all too often, at least psychologically, impacts children too.” In many EU states, according to Lühmann, women’s refuges were almost at full capacity. “What we need now, and fast, is more places for women in danger and their children”, demanded Lühmann. Social distancing measures like those seen in Germany, which still allow people to go out and get some fresh air, ought to be favoured over harsh bans on leaving the house.

Furthermore, women’s concerns needed to be focused on when it came to finding the right labour and social justice responses to the corona crisis. “Many lone parents, the vast majority of whom are women, can’t go to work in the present situation. In some EU states, they are being forced by their employers to take annual leave. This only delays the problem until the summer, when the schools are normally closed.” Doing away with overtime was to be expected, said the Chair. However, adhering to measures to mitigate the crisis did not constitute rest and recuperation.

“Many women-run small businesses and many more work alone in that business. That means that these people urgently need state help.” Deferring loans or offering new loans at favourable rates would not be of any help, in Lühmann’s view. “Solo entrepreneurs, women and men alike, need compensation for the income which has dwindled away. They need real money, or they will have gone bankrupt in a few weeks’ time.” Lühmann is thus calling for emergency aid to be granted to solo entrepreneurs.

Commission ‘Women’s Rights and Gender Equality’ (FEMM)