Postcard from... Brussels


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The Independent Online

When a cashier offered me a free macaroon to mark International Women’s Day in the canteen of the European Parliament on Friday, I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t eat it – it looked like it had been sitting out all day – but I certainly wasn’t offended.

The men of Belgium, however, were. Or at least the handful that complained to the nation’s Institute for the Equality of Women and Men were.

They claim that discounts offered to women to mark the international day for gender equality stood for everything but gender equality.

Instead, the money-saving deals by the DIY chain Gamma – which offered a 20 per cent discount to the fairer sex – and the rail company Thalys were discriminating against men, they claimed.

It seems the institute agreed, and got in touch with the companies, the Flanders News website reported.

Gamma took heed and changed its website so that the terms and conditions made it clear that men, too, could benefits from the International Women’s Day discount.

But Thalys, which used the day to offer €8 (£7) tickets to women, apparently refused to change its offer. The Institute is now looking into potential legal options.

It is not the first time that companies have fallen foul of policies aimed at trying to woo female customers.

In 2010, a lawyer tried to  persuade a New York court  that Ladies Night discount drinks were discriminatory. The lawsuit, however, was swiftly thrown out by a US  appeals Court.