To ensure a feminist future for Europe after the upcoming elections for the European Parliament, the Fierce project was created, comprising organisations from eight different European countries, including Italy. Two representatives of the innovative enterprise Smart Venice, part of the Fierce consortium, explain in detail what it is all about

6 min read
Fierce Europe
Credits Unsplash/Jéan Béller

As the European Parliament elections will take place from 6 to 9 June 2024, feminists across Europe are facing huge challenges. In the last months, electoral polls and the results from national elections in several countries have witnessed a rise in the consensus obtained by far-right and conservative parties, which are often reproducing and nurturing anti-gender and anti-feminist rhetorics.

The surge of anti-gender politics is in fact linked to the growing support for Eurosceptic, populist, and far-right groups, and has influenced informal political actions in the European Parliament

This has not only led to questioning widely accepted issues like equal pay and gender-based violence, but also to debates on traditionally controversial topics such as gender quotas and Lgbtqia+ rights. 

Although there has been an increase in political talk and movements trying to blend nationalist anti-immigration ideas with Lgbtqia+ and feminist concepts, right-wing politics have continued to push homophobic and transphobic views, attacking Lgbtqia+ rights.[1]

This has created more hurdles for intersectional feminism, especially regarding anti-racist and inclusive Lgbtqia+ feminist advocacies, with global influences shaping domestic politics and triggering international protests. Additionally, conservative religious groups have played a role in opposing Lgbtqia+ reproductive rights, abortion, and sex work, framing it as prostitution.

Complicating matters further, the discourse around "gender ideology" has fueled opposition to gender equality in the European Parliament, often alongside arguments for more national control over such regulations.[2]

However, there have been some policy advancements, such as the adoption of the EU Strategy for Gender Equality 2020-2025. Here, intersectionality is emphasised as a key principle for implementation: even if the approach to intersectionality adopted in the strategy is limited to an interpretation of intersected inequalities as individual or personal features, and a more structural and radical interpretation is still missing, it has been indeed the first time that an official EU policy document of such importance has framed gender equality with a non-implicitly universalistic stance, conflating women's needs and voices as they were all equal.

Data support the many gaps and challenges that are still to be addressed. Among these, the fact that, even if in the 95% of EU member states the right for abortion is formally and legally ensured, in reality many women face challenges in accessing care; or, that 16 states do not provide undocumented migrant women with full equal access to affordable maternal health care during pregnancy.

Moreover, recent data indicate that around 600 million women, constituting 15% of women worldwide, resided within 50 kilometers of armed conflict in 2022. This figure represents more than double the levels observed in the 1990s.

In Europe, 11 EU member states discriminate against lesbian couples and single women, and do not allow them equal access to assisted reproduction. In this regard, advanced national legislations in certain countries – like Malta, Belgium and Denmark – coexist with situations where Lgbtqia+ rights are hindered – like in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. As far as the broader European continent is concerned, the worst countries to be Lgbqtia+ are Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Armenia.

Furthermore, according to the International organization for migration (Iom), 60% of the people fleeing from Ukraine were women, while 70% of the casualties in the war on Palestine-Gaza are women or children.

In order to further grow and advance in Europe, intersectional feminist political agendas alliances need to have a favourable institutional setting in place. The risk to set us back on recent policy advancements, even if in terms of small steps, is significant: we live in a moment where the concrete rights of women are at stake, as are those of minorities. 

In too many countries, regressive politics built on an antidemocratic recipe that blends sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism with neoliberal policies and a war economy bring concerns, and even hinder policies to tackle environmental collapse to prioritise economic growth. 

Within the project Feminist movements revitalizing democracy in Europe (Fierce), financed through the European programme Horizon Europe, efforts have been put in networking and alliance-building among feminist movements, both in the individual countries the project touches upon (Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey), and at a transnational level: since September 2023, feminist activists and scholars have joined forces into Labs, deliberated on possible and feasible actions to be co-created in the framework of the project. 

The Fierce transnational lab has agreed on crafting a communication campaign targeting candidates to the European Parliament, to ask them to sign a pledge – the so called Fierce charter – where they make their alliance with feminist movements explicit, part of their electoral campaign, and commit themselves to be accountable if or once elected.

The charter is composed by five claims, corresponding to the visions and struggles of feminists across Europe that we would like to see transposed into concrete political initiatives within the European Parliament.

First of all, a recognised European feminist network of networks, to stop the anti-gender movement.

To achieve this goal, we need to redirect the funding to secure sustainable and transparent feminist networking, and confront online democracy threats – such as disinformation and hate speech –, keeping in mind that words matter, as they do shape worlds.

The second claim focuses on social, economic and reproductive justice, which should be achieved immediately. Further steps include dignifying and recognising care work as the cornerstone of life, and ensure decent work for all through decent conditions, opportunities, and legislation.

For us, fighting sexual and gender-based violence is also crucial, by implementing and improving the EU directive on violence against women (Vaw) and visualising the bigger picture – institutional violence that creates structural discrimination. Comprehensive sex education (Cse) also needs to be guaranteed for all young people in Europe, in order to grow an informed and empowered generation.

As for Lgbtqia+ rights, they need to be protected through a new law and integrated into foreign policies.

The last claim of our charter is dedicated to global development, peace and feminist foreign policy. Our main objectives here are adjusting EU's soft power to build a global institutional framework for peace, development, and sustainability by appealing to its core values, policies, and institutions; ceasefire everywhere immediately; promote climate, justice and economic governance and a Europe without borders.

As for now, the Fierce charter is supported by three European-level feminist NGOs (WIDE+European Roma Rights Centre, Gender 5 Plus) and 12 country-based movements and organizations, while to date 72 candidates has signed the charter. 


You can check them out listed on the campaign page, if you're looking for a feminist compass to your vote in the following days.


We will continue promoting the charter after the European Parliament elections, and interacting with members of Parliament to keep them accountable to the five Fierce feminist claims.



[1] On this, see S. Bracke, From ‘saving women’ to ‘saving gays’: Rescue narratives and their dis/continuities, "European Journal of Women's Studies", 19(2), 237-252, 2012 and S. R. Farris, In the name of women's rights. The rise of femonationalism, Duke University Press, 2017.

[2] On this, see again J. Kantola, E. Lombardo, The European Parliament as a gender equality actor: a contradictory forerunner, "Handbook of Feminist Governance", pp. 299–310, (International Handbooks on Gender series), 2023.