Policies Labour must adopt to address Gender Inequality.

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Women in the Uk are increasing turning to the Labour Party, aware of the hollow promises from Coalition parties (made up in 2010 MPs of 16% (Con) and 12% (LibDems), whose austerity policies have really hit women hard. If Labour are elected, there is much work to be done and it is imperative that Labour’s agenda for women is radical and Labour’s straight-talking is heard by the electorate.

Labour must fully  take on board all recommendations from the recent study from the Fawcett Society “Sex and Power in 2013, “Who Runs Britain?”

The report makes six recommendations:

–       Political parties should take immediate action to increase the number of women candidates at all levels of election with a view to fielding as many women candidates from as wide a variety of backgrounds and communities as possible in winnable seats in 2015. This should include active consideration of positive action measures in selection processes.

–       In order to enable everyone concerned to develop a much better understanding of the issues, a monitoring form similar to that used in recruitment for public appointments and applications for funding should be introduced. It would be completed and submitted to returning officers by all candidates together with nomination forms at all levels of election, and the results collated and published annually. This requirement should be implemented at the 2014 English local and European elections.

–       Government should pilot a new government-wide scheme in 2014 to increase women’s presence, profile and participation in the 2015 general election and beyond. This could be done by drawing together experience from the UK and abroad which could be used to improve both the participation and the candidacy of women of all backgrounds in Britain.

–       Government, political parties and others should act to implement the recommendations of the Speaker’s Conference Report published in 2010.

–       In addition to adopting the proposals for cultural change in public life contained in reports such as the Speaker’s Conference, the Councillors’ Commission, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Pathways to Politics, steps should be taken to develop a much wider set of proposals for improving the culture of both politics at all levels and the media coverage of them.

–       All organisations – public, private and third sector – should take steps to ensure that, at meetings and events, both women and men appear on platforms as speakers, and editors and broadcasters should also take responsibility for commissioning contributions from both women and men as commentators and experts. Individual citizens should be encouraged by to object to men-only platforms, panels and programmes.

Labour must also consider and implement  the following policies addressing gender inequality.

o Recognising the impact of cuts affecting women, Labour must develop policies to reverse these effects. In opposition Labour should address the issues and ensure the Coalition government is held to account for their actions.

o Implement the policy proposed by Harriet Harman that either Party Leader or Deputy Leader must be female. A balanced team of men and women make better decisions.

o Set up consultation groups in areas of deprivation inviting women to put forward suggestions, which will help improve their lives.

o Alongside the move for the Leader of the Labour Party to choose the Shadow Cabinet, it is paramount that the voice of women needs to be maintained. A minimum of 40% of the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, should be women members; this percentage being raised to 50% over 5 years.

o Set up consultations with women within parties, workplaces, trade unions, women’s groups as to how to support them to further become involved in local decision making within local councils.

o Flexible maternity/paternity leave on full pay.

o In the workplace, ensure equal pay and conditions, including part-time workers, and a living wage to bring all low-paid workers out of poverty.

o All communities should provide good quality care and support for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill people, both helping them and relieving the burden of care from so many women.

o Continue with short listing of women candidates in selection of parliamentary candidates, until proportional and equal representation of women and men in the parliamentary Labour Party is met and maintained.

o There needs to be a reassessment of procedures and practices within local government and parliament and an investigation to ascertain how women could be included more and how they would like to become more involved in making decisions which affect them.

o Consult with women’s groups regarding issues for women, recognising women do not always engage with mainstream party political meetings, and set up workgroups with aims of addressing these issues.

o Respite for carers of one day a week to be funded.

o Playgroup Provision of free 5 hours p/w offered to every child from two years

o Nursery Education provision of free 15 hours p/w offered to every child from three years.

o Pursue universal affordable childcare policy , as proposed by Think Left.

o Amendments to the Equality Act should be reversed.

o Develop a Women’s Act that would enshrine women’s rights in policy-making and implementation.

o Increase benefit income in order to improve the lives of women living in poverty and support their families’ well-being;

o Reverse the cuts to SureStart Centres

o Women and girls must have equal access to education and training. That must include crèche facilities for parents returning to work or study, after time off to care for children. In our schools we must ensure an end to sex differentiation in the subjects offered to girl and boys.

o Improve access to education, flexible and varied methods of study and access to a life long Qualification Pathway so improving the quality of life for women and improving their employment prospects.

o Pursue an affordable housing policy so that women are not held in a poverty trap where they cannot work because of loss of housing benefits.

o Women must have the freedom to choose whether or not to have children without punishment for their choice. There must be free, safe and reliable contraception available. The access to the right to termination of pregnancy where there is agreement for two doctors should remain, within guidelines recommended by medical professionals. A woman who exercises her right to terminate her pregnancy should be offered counselling before and after the procedure. She does not do so lightly, and must be treated with respect and sensitivity.

o Safety from sexual/domestic violence. All individuals who are victimised should have access to safe rehousing if necessary.

o Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace creates misery for many women, and there should be active promotion of policies in the workplace to eradicate this.

o A 35-hour working week, and flexibility for part-time work.

RELATED POSTS

  1. The Fawcett Society: Sex and Power in 2013
  2. Think Left: The Foot that Kicks the Cradle rules the world
  3. Think Left: Women and Children First
  4. Think Left: Women as Voters and MPs
  5. Think Left: A Bold Approach To Child Care
  6. Think Left: Poor Brum (Think Left)
  7. Think Left: Becoming a Member of Parliament

The Foot that Kicks the Cradle Rules the World #womensday

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The Foot that Kicks the Cradle rules the World

International Women’s Day 8th March 2013

Have you ever wondered why ships and other forms of transport are referred to as feminine in many languages, as they protect and carry us around our lives? Mankind talks of Mother Earth and Mother Nature in the feminine case as we acknowledge their special role as origins of life, yet by actions foolishly endangers them both.

Through evolution, the immense strength of women has ensured survival of our species, yet the world’s women do not share economic and political equality with men. All around the world women rightfully demand equality with men, but are denied. International Women’s Day was first introduced in the early 20th Century, and highlights women’s solidarity in their fight for economical and political equality for men. In Russia, men celebrate women’s contribution to society by flowers for mothers, wives, and daughters.

Like most political struggles against oppression, equality for women around the world – the majority – does not come by passive action. Women’s suffrage has been a long struggle and continues to be.

Over the past year, the world’s press have extensively covered the story of Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head because she wanted an education. There have also be reports of gang rapes in Dehli. That such appalling injustices can happen, is incomprehensible, and International support against such atrocities must be heard.

But I wonder why, from the Western Press, the emphasis is on Asian injustice against women. Is it to distract from the instrinsic patriarchal societies of the West, rather than recognise the positive influence of matriarchal Indian societies?

In Kerala, for example matriarchal societies existed for thousands of years and a more equal balance between men and women was the norm. British interference led to introduction of the nuclear family denouncing matriarchal societies as outdated.

“Though the matriarchal home is now nearly extinct, replaced by the fiercely nuclear family, the elevation of womanhood, its most unique feature, remains. Keralites, men and women, are proud of this. To this day, it amazes visitors from other states how high Kerala women hold their heads–in the home and workplace–and that they travel virtually anywhere unafraid of harassment.”

The following passage dating from 1863 portrays the environment within which political feminism arose in the United Kingdom and is an excerpt from a treatise on international commercial law, part of a section describing conditions under which a person may be considered unable to enter into a commercial contract. Following the discussion of individuals unfit due to “want of understanding” – covering minors as well as “lunatics and drunkards” is a heading covering individuals unable due to “want of free-will”: married women. Levi was a barrister and his words give his opinion of the legal situation, one which was prevalent at the time.

By marriage, the personal identity of the woman is lost. Her person is completely sunk in that of her husband, and he acquires an absolute mastery over her person and effects. Hence her complete disability to contract legal obligations; and except in the event of separation by divorce, or other causes, a married woman in the United Kingdom cannot engage in trade.

Leone Levi, International Commercial Law, 1863

Fifty years later, and, as it happens exactly a hundred years ago, a young woman Emily Davison, who became a martyr for the suffragette movement threw herself under the King’s horse in “a state of agitation” .

This poster shown from the suffragette movement in 1913, states what seems to be the obvious: that men and women working together as equals will benefit everyone, indeed to divide by gender, class or creed can only result on societal breakdown. It is not a case of women against men, or men against women, but all adults standing as equals and protecting the rights of all.

suffragettes_1913_modified

In 1928, women In Britain received the vote on the same terms as men (over the age of 21) as a result of the Representation of the People Act 1928. But in the twenty first century, inequality prevails while those in power are predominantly male, and white, and with a privileged education, often Oxbridge.

Currently, the UK Coalition government is pursuing policies of austerity. These policies are hitting women and children hardest.

Benefits and service cuts hitting women hardest

Women are hit hardest as the services and benefits they use more are cut. Women typically use state services and benefits more than men for a wide range of reasons. These include:

  • Women have pregnancy and maternity needs
  • Women are far more likely to be lone parents
  • Women are more likely to be the primary carers for children, frail older people, sick and disabled people
  • Women are more likely to be the victims of domestic and sexual violence
  • Women live longer, often spending the final years of their lives alone
  • Women are, on average, poorer than men – particularly so in later life (Fawcett society)

The study Unravelling equality: The effect of poverty on the women of Coventry examines how women are disproportionately affected by this government’s austerity measures. Women are hard hit by loss of Surestart centres, pay cuts and public sector pay freezes, increased childcare costs, cuts to Local Housing Allowance, loss of Legal Aid and cuts to support domestic abuse which will potentially put some women in violent situations. The injustice is that decisions made predominantly by men are disproportionately affecting women.

Educational opportunities have narrowed to some degree in the past 50 years. In the days of the 11 plus, girls had to achieve higher marks than boys in tests to get a grammar school place, so the odds were stacked unfairly against them. When this advantage was removed, girls were outperforming boys, who perhaps expected the status quo to continue. As a result of this, teachers are now expected target lessons specifically towards white boys. And why? The pay gap between men and women is widening. Britain’s female graduates, earn less than men, even with the same qualifications, and the gender pay back is twice as large for women in their 50s, and many of this group are finding that the pension they had anticipated all their working lives is no longer there as they had expected, and planned for. This is no equality!

No progress will be made to move women out of poverty and offer equal opportunities until there is true and equal power sharing in our society. It is shameful that despite the suffragette movement little has changed in 100 years.

In 1997, the record numbers of women candidates were returned. A record number of women candidates stood for election, due, in part to the Labour Party adopting a policy of women-only shortlists. This mechanism was withdrawn in 1996 when an employment tribunal found that is was in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Since then uncertainty about the legal position made it difficult for parties to develop policies on selection procedures aimed at introducing more MPs into parliament. The Labour Party was the only political party to use all-female shortlists in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections.

Think Left have examined the power imbalance in Think Left: Women as Voters and MPs.

At 31.5% women Members, Labour certainly is more representative than other parties, compared with around 16% (Con) and around 12% (Lib Dems) but still has a long way to go in order to fairly represent an electorate in which the majority is female. Compare this to the data , for female involvement in Nordic Countries, of 42.1% female. 51% of the UK electorate are female.


Charts represent proportions of men/women MPs in 2010

Labour Conservative Liberal Democrat
Labour MPsTory MPsLib Dem MPs

The patriarchal power prevails, and more recently in 2013, the Fawcett Society have published this document, Sex and Power 2013. This chart shows women as a percentage of elected members of UK political institutions, January 2013.

NB: The House of Lords retains a built-in bias against women’s membership in that none of the 26 bishops are women, and only two of the 92 hereditary peers. Almost all women members of the House of Lords are life peers.

Women in Politics

The Observer reports on the study, and refers to the absence of women from public life as shocking, which of course it is, but this can hardly be a shock, having been the case for centuries!
The Conservative Party, which has historically expected a large proportion of women to vote Conservative, can no longer depend on those votes. In September 2011, Think Left commented on a document which revealed Tory plans to regain voters. Clearly Cameron and his government’s assessment of women’s sense of injustice is way off mark, and his ideas for wooing female voters back are incredibly patronising. Active female trade unionists defy the image of male dominated trade unions, as the media would have us believe.
Picture 14
Picture 16
The Guardian reports that:
While Labour had a seven-point lead over the Tories (36%-29%) among men, among women it was 26 points (51%-25%).
  • Women have been pro-Labour in 13 consecutive Guardian/ICM polls, with a double digit difference in each of the last six, said Martin Boon, director of ICM research.”It is wise to express caution about the latest development as sample sizes are based on about 250 female votes and similar for men, but for this to be such a consistent theme is no doubt worth remarking upon,” he said.
  • Dr Rosie Campbell, expert in voting and gender at Birkbeck, University of London, said: “From the beginning David Cameron talked about the work/life balance, trying to win back women attracted by New Labour – but he has delivered?”A noxious combination of cuts to child tax credits, child benefit, public sector roles more likely to be held by women, pensions and fears over the NHS, childcare and further education were turning women off.
“You can’t get away with relying on the rhetoric if that is not what women are feeling on the ground.”
And that’s the point really. The Etonion Cameron clearly never learned about equality at school. His patronising and rude “Calm down, Dear! ” episode in April 2011 shows that he neither cares or understands about anyone out of his circle. We need straight talking policies, equal opportunities, and a fair society. It’s time for a representative parliament. Simple really. No more, no less, Bully Boys.
  1. Think Left: Women and Children First
  2. Think Left: Women as Voters and MPs
  3. Think Left: A Bold Approach To Child Care
  4. Think Left: Poor Brum (Think Left)
  5. Think Left: Becoming a Member of Parliament
  6. Think Left, September 2011 How the Tories intend to regain support from women voters
  7. Unravelling equality: The effect of poverty on the women of Coventry
  8. The Fawcett Society: Sex and Power in 2013 March 2013
  9. Observer: Report shows shocking absence of women from UK public life March 2013
  10. Guardian: Female Graduates earn less than males
  11. TUC: Gender pay gap twice as large for women in their 50s
  12. The Fawcett Society
  13. Guardian Women now to the left of men
  14. Guardian Conservatives and women voters
  15. Guardian CiF Do Tories really think this is how to woo back women voters?
  16. Tory/Lib DEm Government succeed in mislaying women voters.
  17. Hinduism Today: Matriarchy
  18. Matriarchy: Wikipedia
  19. International Women’s Day
  20. Women’s Suffrage in The UK