A Polish lawmaker is facing punishment from the European Parliament after telling a colleague that it was right that women earn less than men — “because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.”
The comments were made by Janusz Korwin-Mikke on Wednesday evening, but came to widespread attention after the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament released footage of the comments.
The Polish politician had also suggested that women were less able, as there were fewer women in higher levels of the International Physics Olympiad or at the top levels of professional chess.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani opened an investigation of Korwin-Mikke on Thursday. Under the parliament’s rules, members are obliged to show respect to each other and must refrain from “defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior.”
Korwin-Mikke could now face a reprimand, fine or suspension due to his comments.
The 74-year-old politician leads his own party in the European Parliament, of which he has been a member since 2014, representing the constituency of Silesia. He is known for his Euroskeptic, right-wing views.
Korwin-Mikke has faced censure from parliamentary authorities three times before. In 2014, he was fined after giving a speech that used the word “negroes,” and in 2015 he was temporarily suspended after giving a Nazi salute and later suspended again after describing immigrants as “human garbage.”
Before Korwin-Mikke was elected to the European Parliament, his views on women were already the subject of debate back home in Poland, where he has long been a figure on the libertarian and far-right fringes of politics. In the past, he has suggested that perhaps women should not be allowed to vote and said that domestic violence brought women “down to earth” (comments he later indicated were meant ironically).
Korwin-Mikke has also repeatedly questioned whether Adolf Hitler was directly involved in the Holocaust.