The European Parliament was left aghast after a Polish lawmaker stated that women are fundamentally inferior to men during a debate on equal pay and the gender pay gap.

“Of course women must earn less than men because they are weaker, smaller and less intelligent,” said Janusz Korwin-Mikke.

The 74-year-old’s reasoning was that no women featured in the top 800 in the Polish theoretical physics Olympiad and top 100 chess players.

Members of the European Parliament (MEP) immediately retorted in the chamber, while some took to Twitter to reiterate the need for equality.

Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia-Perez was the first to shoot back at the diatribe. “Well, according to what you’re saying, I wouldn’t have the right to be here as a member of Parliament. And I know that you’re very upset and very concerned about the fact that we women can represent citizens on an equal footing with you,” she said. “I think I need to defend European women against men like you.”

The next day, EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani opened an investigation of the comments under Rule 11 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which calls for “mutual respect” between members and asks them to refrain from “defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behaviour.”

This has sparked a larger debate on the role of women in political and economic positions in Europe, which upholds the value of gender equality. This article cites that Korwin-Mikke’s “unfashionable views” reflect the rise of far-right nationalism in Europe.

The surge of right-wing groups became evident during the migrant crises, Brexit, and populist sentiments drawn from US President Donald Trump’s election.

Korwin-Mikke belongs to a right-wing party that won five per cent of the votes in Poland’s recent parliamentary elections.

Korwin-Mikke has already received sanctions from the EU assembly. In 2016 he compared migrants to “excrement”, and in 2015, he was suspended for ten days for making a Nazi salute, reported the BBC.