Six Members of the Icelandic Parliament were overheard making sexist and ableist comments about a number of prominent women in a bar. This is inexcusable hate speech and we call for their immediate resignation.

We, the European Disability Forum (EDF), the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) are outraged by the comments made by the Iceland MPs. At one point former MP and ENIL member Freyja Haraldsdóttir, a prominent woman’s rights and disability campaigner, was compared to a seal by the MPs. These comments are hate speech. They objectify and dehumanise women and confirm that women with disabilities face double discrimination because of their impairment and gender.

Since the incident has come to the public attention Freyja has received apologies from a senior politician in Iceland. However, Freyja does not feel these apologies were genuine. They blamed the comments about Freyja Haraldsdóttir on her activism for Disability Rights. This is a typical example of victim blaming and the undermining of women active in politics.

Freyja Haraldsdóttir said “I think what I struggle the most with is that people don’t see this attack much as intersected with gender and disability – but as disability mockery. But it’s much deeper than that and extremely sexist.”

Þuríður Harpa Sigurðardóttir, Board member of the European Disability Forum and chair of the Organisation of Disabled in Iceland added:“The fact that people with disabilities are verbally abused by Members of Parliament is a sad testimony of those people. Freyja Haraldsdóttir, is one of our most respected entrepreneurs and disability and feminist activists, and the verbal abuse she has experienced is both saddening and exposing for the MPs concerned.”

She continued “MPs have a mandate from the people, are role models and expected to exercise their mandate with integrity and respect for everyone. Their words show mindsets that simply create barriers for disabled people to enjoy basic human rights and in a way explain why things are happening too slowly here in Iceland.”

European Women’s Lobby President Gwendoline Lefebvre declared “It is crystal clear that 100 years since women obtained the right to vote, we still have a long way to go before women can enjoy equal rights with men and to ending the impunity of male violence against women”

She added that “Ms. Haraldsdóttir’s experience is unacceptable and shows how violence against women and girls continues to be pervasive in the Europe and worldwide. The EWL strongly condemns all forms of violence against women in public, private and cyber space”.

We call on the MPs to resign immediately from Iceland’s Parliament. It’s the right thing to do.

Statement Endorsed by:

European Disability Forum

European Network on Independent Living

European Women’s Lobby

[Photo: Freya Haraldsdottir, copyright: Tabu]