Populist Parties and Future of Gender Equality Policies in the EU

Heli Askola

This paper discusses the future of European gender equality policies in light of the rise of populist political parties, in particular far-right parties, many of which are also Euro-sceptic and distrustful of discourses about 'common European values'. The recent electoral successes of populist parties, especially those which are generally anti-immigration as well as Eurosceptic, have been much scrutinised in terms of their consequences for the EU's immigration agenda. The implications of the rise of populist political parties for gender equality policies (both at the EU level and in the Member States) have been explored in a much more limited way. On the one hand, studies show that populist parties are, in many cases, male-dominated and critical of female emancipation inasmuch as they see it as contributing to the loss of 'traditional family values'. On the other hand, populist parties, especially those with an anti-immigration bent, have recently sought to instrumentalise gender equality and tolerance of diversity to mark the (alleged) difference between European and other cultures (most notably Islam). With that tension in mind, the paper examines various European populist parties' policy platforms on matters relevant to gender equality, analysing what they imply about the future of European debates on gender equality, citizenship and diversity.

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