By Ellise Nicholls
A Polish nationalist member of the European Parliament, recently punished for anti-migrant statements and making Nazi salutes, has provoked outcry after he said women “must earn less than men because they are weaker, smaller and less intelligent”.
Mr Korwin-Mikke – an independent MEP with his own political party – has previously been censured by parliament.
The Polish MEP told his fellow MEPs, while on the floor of Parliament in Brussels, “Of course women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent [than men].
“They must earn less. That’s all.”
The video of the speech quickly went viral, as well as an impassioned response by a socialist MEP, Iratxe Garcia Perez, who told Korwin-Mikke, “I am here to protect all European women from men like you.”
The MEPS were debating the gender pay gap, identifying the causes and possible solutions, and their debate sparked an international outcry, especially coming so soon before International Women’s Day.
According to Eurostat, the pay gap varies considerably in Europe ranging from as little as 5.5% in Luxembourg and Italy to a much larger gap of 26.9% in Estonia. The gap in Poland is relatively small, around 7%, or in other words, about half of what it is in Spain.
In the United States, while the pay gap varies state by state, the average is around 20%.
The parliament’s president, Antonio Tagani, is investigating whether the Polish MEP broke the body’s rules in his recent remarks to European parliament.
Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure says that MEP’s conduct “shall be characterised by mutual respect” and that they “shall not resort to defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behaviour in parliamentary debates.”
The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group urged the Parliament President to sanction the Polish MEP for his “shameful” behaviour.
The parliament press office told the BBC that penalties for the behaviour could range from a reprimand to a fine and temporary suspension.
James Green, a GOP official in Utah, apologized in February after making similar comments about the biological arguments for the pay gap.
His letter, “Equal Pay for Women Has Consequences”, published in Wasatch Wave and the Park Record, reads “Traditionally men have earned more than women in the workplace because they are considered the primary breadwinners for families. They need to make enough to support their families and allow the Mother to remain in the home to raise and nurture the children.”