Tag Archives: womens rights

Liberals must speak out against conservative attacks on divorce and same sex marriage

Last week, Conservative MP Danny Kruger made some controversial remarks about marriage at the awful National Conservative Conference in London. He said:

The second truth is that the normative family – held together by marriage, by mother and father sticking together for the sake of the children and the sake of their own parents and for the sake of themselves – this is the only possible basis for a safe and successful society.

“Marriage is not all about you. It’s not just a private arrangement. It’s a public act, by which you undertake to live for someone else, and for wider society; and wider society should recognise and reward this undertaking.

I guess it is good in a way that these comments are now considered controversial. It does show how far we have come in the past few decades. Christine Jardine, our equalities spokesperson said Mr Kruger’s comments

show just how utterly out of touch the Conservative Party is with modern day Britain.

Conservative MPs are happy to lecture families on how to live, while making life harder and harder for millions of families through the cost-of-living crisis and years of unfair tax rises.

East Midlands Lib Dem commentator Mathew Hulbert did a good interview on Peter Cardwell’s Talk TV programme:

Mathew said:

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Lib Dems should stand up against EHRC claims on sex and Equality Act

In February, the Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch wrote to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to ask them to consider the current definition of “sex” in the Equality Act.

It should not be a surprise that the EHRC replied this week identifying eight areas, ranging from book clubs to sport to access to single sex spaces in which amending the Equality Act so that sex means what they call “biological sex” would bring “greater legal clarity.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that this, if implemented, would have a massive impact on trans people’s ability to live their lives. Not only that, but women who aren’t trans, but who don’t look “feminine enough” could face challenge in single sex spaces. It would essentially make life more miserable and dangerous with no gain for anyone.

Not only that, but part of the requirement for getting a Gender Recognition Certificate is that you do use single sex spaces after you have transitioned. So restricting those to sex on your original birth certificate creates a Catch 22.

The EHRC is led by Kishwer Falkner, who was once a Liberal Democrat Peer but now sits in the Lords as non-affiliated after leaving the Party over our continued opposition to Brexit. She was appointed by the Government to her current role in December 2020 and the organisation has been adding to the anti-trans mood music since.

I have spent my adult life campaigning for women’s rights and I’m far from being done. The Scottish Lib Dem Women constitution cites smashing the patriarchy as an aim and I am here for that.

I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of threatening behaviour from men in a public place and to actually fear for my life.

None of that makes me think it is ok to stop trans women accessing women’s spaces, or fail to do them the most basic courtesy of respecting their identity. Because if you don’t accept them as the women they are,  how on earth are they supposed to go about their lives? What facilities are they supposed to use?

Falkner says in her letter to the Government that she wants to see a more informed and constructive debate on these issues. One way to do that would be to target the misinformation and fear being spread by anti trans groups and to recognise that this is part of a global effort to undermine women’s rights and LGBT rights.

Liz Barker pointed this out in her International Women’s Day speech in the Lords:

Women have different life experiences, different economic circumstances and all sorts of differences between us, yet we have common aspirations for safety, health, autonomy and prosperity. It is important to bear that in mind as we have this debate, because it takes place against the background of a campaign originated and orchestrated by Christian nationalists in the United States, Europe and across Russia, which is very definitely about curbing the aspirations and autonomy of all women.

In the United States and places like Poland and Hungary the focus is on anti-abortion activities. In Africa, the focus is against equality and LGBT rights. In the US and UK, the key focus of this campaign is anti-gender.

The constant drip feed of anti trans stories in the media brings to mind the constant drip feed of anti EU stories over many years. And we know that didn’t end well.

It is therefore hardly surprising that trans people are worried and fearful about their safety in this sort of environment as hate crimes against them soar.

Women are equally understandably worried and fearful about their safety as violence against women and girls increases. The threat to women’s safety is not trans women though – it is predatory men in a society structured in such a way that those men are rarely  held to account for their behaviour.

If we turned our attention to dismantling the power structures and the culture that enables that to happen rather than picking on trans women, the world would be a lot safer for all women.

EHRC officials met LGBT representatives the day after the letter was released. And it is fair assessment, from Jane Fae’s account, that they do not fully understand what they are talking about. I am in awe of our own Helen Belcher for keeping her cool through that meeting and calmly and forensically questioning them on their assertions:

Well, I can understand that might be an aspiration but when your letter talks about reasons for, erm, excluding trans women from women’s spaces, how, how do you expect me to live my life? How do you expect me to be a councillor and represent my constituents? How do you expect me to do my work in Parliament if I cannot use women’s facilities? …

That’s a really basic element of human rights and the proposal seems to me to demand that I am openly identifiable as trans in any interaction with public services. So how does that square with my right to privacy?

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Mahsa Amin’s death

They are burning their headscarves and police cars in Iran. Persian women are fighting back against the mullahs’ morality police. The catalyst for their anger is the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amin. The Iranian authorities claim she died of a pre-existing heart condition. Rubbish, say her family, there was nothing wrong with her heart. She died, they claim, because she was beaten in the police van on the way to the station. Ms Amin was arrested because she was wearing her hijab or head scarf improperly. That is common offence which the morality police monitor along with the wearing of tight trousers and leggings, holding hands or kissing in public.

Iran is not the only Muslim country with morality police. Afghanistan has probably the most severe. Iran probably holds the number two slot. Others include Nigeria, Sudan and Malaysia. Then there is Saudi Arabia where the ruling family’s adoption of Islam’s strict Wahhabi sect led to the establishment of the notorious Committee for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Better known among Saudis as simply “The Committee.” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, however, has been circumscribing the morality police to the point of near extinction. The backlash in Iran may force the Mullahs to follow suit which can only undermine their wider claim to political legitimacy.

Another lurch to the right in Europe

Europe is taking another lurch to the right. This month two national parties with links to a fascist past have either come to power or are poised to do so.

Sweden has been known as Europe’s most tolerant country towards cultural diversity. But this month the rabid anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats emerged as the second largest party and is forming a government with the centre-right Moderates.

In a disturbing echo of Donald Trump, party leader Jimmie Akesson declared it was time to “Make Sweden Great Again.”

Georgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy has an equally upsetting motto which links her party to its fascist past—“God, family and fatherland.” Ms Meloni is expected to emerge as Italy’s prime minister after Sunday’s vote. Her party is Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, anti-gay, anti-abortion and has expressed doubts about NATO membership.

Italy and Sweden join Hungary, Britain, Czech Republic, Slovakia Austria and others who have lurched rightwards. There are differences between them but the one common element is the disturbing trend to portray their country as a victim.

Iceland

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Misogyny laid bare – Laura Bates and Winnie M Li at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Imagine if, in the wake of the shocking murder of a woman Police went door to door in the area telling men that they could only go out in pairs, telling them that we know that one of you is murdering women, but we don’t know who.

It would be utterly absurd, wouldn’t it? And the outrage in the Daily Mail would probably melt the polar ice caps in seconds.

After Sabina Nessa was killed last year, Police went round telling women in Camden not to go out alone. Why should women constantly have our lives restricted because of the behaviour of men?

At the Edinburgh Book Festival, Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates challenged us to think creatively about how we can get rid of the injustices faced by women.

She was talking about her book Fix the System, not the women, in which she highlights how society’s structures reinforce each other in failing to recognise and tackle that unfairness.

It tends to be the pretty, white, middle class women who hit the headlines, but, as Laura pointed out, a woman is murdered every three days in this country. We don’t hear about them. If we did, it would be impossible to ignore the pattern of behaviour and institutional bias that puts them in danger.

Apparently the top Google search about Sabina Nessa’s murder was “what was she wearing?” As a society, Laura said, we are prepared to believe that murders and rapes are isolated incidents, which happen because of something some silly woman did wrong, whether it was her attire, the amount she had to drink or who else she had ever consented to have sex with and in what circumstances.

The media reinforce these attitudes, leading to a situation where a third of jurors believe that if a woman was drunk, she was complicit in her own rape. This environment is not conducive to bringing perpetrators to justice.

She looked at the language often used when reporting about rape:

We don’t see discussions of theft described as non-consensual borrowing yet they call rape non=consensual sex.

Nobody would say to a victim of arson that because they went to s bonfire party 3 years ago they maybe they secretly enjoyed a good fire.

And then there’s the fear kicked up by the media that good men are losing their jobs because of false allegations of sexual assault. That fear, Laura said, is completely unfounded. A man is 230 times more likely to be raped himself than to be falsely accused of sexual assault.

She talked about how the Metropolitan Police were so quick to dismiss the murderer of Sarah Everard, at that time a serving officer, as one bad apple. However, we know of the awful culture of misogyny throughout its ranks.

We therefore have  media, law enforcement and justice systems all stacked against women, so you turn to politics to help and find a chronic under-representation of women in positions of power and a disproportionate number of men accused of sexual misbehaviour.

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28 November 2019 – today’s press releases (part 2)

And here are the rest…

  • Lib Dems: Johnson’s comments show he is no champion of women’s rights
  • Sarah Wollaston: Number of GP practices falls to record low as winter crisis approaches
  • Lib Dems won’t let your future melt away
  • Tory threat to Channel 4 is attempt to cover up Johnson’s cowardice

Lib Dems: Johnson’s comments show he is no champion of women’s rights

Responding to Boris Johnson’s comments on single mothers, Liberal Democrat Equalities Spokesperson Christine Jardine, said:

So many of us in this country know the reality of the sacrifice and effort made by single parents. But yet again these comments show Boris Johnson is

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Wera Hobhouse presents Bill to outlaw upskirting

Lib Dem MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse, has introduced a Bill which would make upskirting illegal in England. It is high time that the disgusting practice of secretly taking a photo up a woman’s skirt without consent and, sometimes, publishing it on the internet,

A couple of weeks ago, Wera asked a Government Minister if the Government would legislate on this. The answer was reasonably positive, so we need to push the Government to support Wera’s Bill.  You would hope that nobody would try to defend the practice which has been illegal in Scotland for almost a decade.

From the Bath Chronicle:

Wera Hobhouse presented her private member’s bill to make the practice illegal in the wake of a public campaign calling for a change in the law.

If passed into law, her bill would make upskirting a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

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Lynne Featherstone calls on UK Government to support Women’s Health Fund to replace funds lost by Trump’s abortion gag rule

I have felt sick to the stomach virtually every day this week as new pronouncements come from the new US President. Already he’s damaged our planet by authorising new pipelines, promised to reinstate torture and proclaimed that he’s going to build that wall no matter what.

For me, though, the worst was the distasteful image of a man who has gloated about sexually assaulting women sitting, surrounded by men, signing an executive order which will ensure that vulnerable women lose their lives. He has reinstated the “global gag rule” on abortion which means that no US funds can go to organisations which provide abortion services. No US money pays for abortion services, but no organisation can receive funds for its other programmes.

The impact of this on Africa is highlighted by this Washington Post article:

In Kenya, public health experts raised immediate concerns about the new policy. Women here often resort to dangerous methods to end their pregnancies, including drinking battery acid and using wire coat hangers. In parts of rural Kenya, young women have hired local healers to stomp on their stomachs until the pregnancy is deemed over.

“Trump’s policy means even fewer services will be offered,” said Chimaraoke Izugbara, a researcher at the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in Nairobi. “Some women will not be reached, and providers may not be available to offer services. I think we are headed to a major disaster.”

Nearly 8,000 women in Kenya die every year from complications caused by pregnancy and childbirth. At least a fifth of those deaths are caused by self-induced abortions, according to Izugbara.

However, Dutch trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen has a solution:

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Two reports highlight ongoing need for feminism

Two reports today show that feminism’s work is far from done.

A worrying analysis from the Children’s Society says that 1 in 7 girls are unhappy with more than 1 in 3 being particularly anxious over their appearance.  Given the massive media pressure on what constitutes beauty, it’s hardly surprising that body image remains such a strong trigger of unhappiness.

Girls suffer significantly more unhappiness than boys and this feeds into greater rates of mental ill health.

It’s not difficult to see why if you look at the SRE Now tag on Twitter and read Laura Bates’ and Sarah Green’s recent Telegraph article which highlights the issues of sexual harassment girls face in school. Even in primary school, damaging attitudes about gender roles and consent are prevalent. Green and Bates say:

The evidence is not just anecdotal. A recent BBC Freedom of Information request revealed that 5,500 alleged sexual offences, including 600 rapes, were reported to police as having taken place in schools over three years. That’s an average of almost exactly one rape per school day. Meanwhile, a YouGov survey for the End Violence Against Women coalition revealed that almost one in three 16-18 year old girls experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.

Against this backdrop, we desperately need to educate children about concepts like consent, respect and healthy relationships. But at present, there is no requirement for schools to teach anything apart from the basic biology of sex.

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Opinion: Abortion reform – handing power back to women

Despite being in the 21st century, we appear to value the approval of medical professionals, and their control over women’s bodies, more than we do women’s autonomy.

Last week it came to light in a Telegraph report that some abortion clinics – up to one in five – were performing abortions illegally. Doctors were pre-signing forms to permit abortions before they had seen the patient’s medical information. Why are so many good doctors not following the law?

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, termination of pregnancy is legal up to 24 weeks, as long as two doctors approve it. Not one, two.  …

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