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.

This is something politicians need to take seriously.  There is comment from Labour, Conservative and Green politicians across both pieces, but none from Liberal Democrats. Our party needs to be part of this debate, or we run the risk that women will think we don’t get what life is like for them.  Nick Clegg and David Laws fought for mandatory Sex and Relationships Education in Government and it’s really important that we continue to comment on these things.

Another report by the Commons Women and Equalities Committee shows that the number of pregnant women forced to leave their jobs as a result of discrimination has doubled in the last 11 years. Part of the reason they can get away with it is that it has become much more difficult for women to access tribunals, given the £1200 fee to do so. This was a compromise too far by the Liberal Democrats in coalition. Vince Cable has been pretty open about saying that he didn’t like it. There is now strong evidence to justify the elimination of these fees.

Jo Swinson, now chair of Maternity Action, had this to say:

There is an urgent need for Government action to reduce the alarmingly high rates of pregnancy discrimination at work.  We have yet to see a coherent Government strategy to address this.

Pregnant women should not be forced to resign their jobs because of poor health and safety compliance.  These women should have the full support of the law to protect their health and the health of their baby.

Too many women are unfairly selected for redundancy and lack the resources to challenge this.  We need to provide stronger legal protection against discrimination for women facing redundancy during pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work.

Employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 make justice unaffordable for most women.  We need to remove financial barriers to accessing justice if we want women to exercise their rights.

Women on zero hours and agency contracts deserve maternity rights at work but many are excluded from basic entitlements, such as paid time off for antenatal appointments.

The rates of pregnancy discrimination have skyrocketed in recent years, and will continue to rise if we don’t take action now.  The Women and Equalities Committee recommendations cover the key interventions which Government needs to pursue to ensure women’s rights are respected.

In many ways, the hard-won progress for women’s rights in recent years is being challenged. There is much to be done to ensure that these rights are enhanced and not eroded.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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9 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st Aug '16 - 8:08pm

    Caron, I agree with you here .

    Two things . We must be stronger as a society on cause and effect.

    On dealing with cause , rightly the emphasis has to be on education , and indeed it must be sex and relationships, and, body image , self worth , respect for others, the lot. Too many young people lack the necessary safe context to gain the compass they need, the understanding they crave , the guidance they deserve, on all aspects of living.School is too often a test too far , and thus , more missed opportunities.

    We must , on the effect , in my view, be harsher in our sentences for rape , and other violent crimes towards the vulnerable , by the proponents of real villainy. When the worst of the crimes , yes often , and on this mostly ,against women , are shown to be punishable with real punishment , we send out not a token message , but a statement of our values. It is something I emphasise a lot , the lover of liberty is the one who can more definitely know the circumstances appropriate for the long needed loss of it ! Mill knew more than most about liberty and much about the subjection of women . In his day, for murder, he favoured the death penalty. Perhaps on that he would not now.I know what I think he would say today about the abusers of the innocent , the violent towards the vulnerable .And it would not be soft soap !

    Too often only a part of the equation on crime is spoken , part is not . When I speak on this and begin with freeing the prisons of the cannabis smokers and the low level filchers , and the predominantly female TV licence non payers , but add with vigour , the punishment of the powerful offender, begins with the individual , and dominant thuggish behaviour by the powerful bully against the bullied , is a Liberal cause ,and a democratic one , or it is no ones , and call for prison to mean imprisonment of those, I get heartfelt enthusiasm, and , interestingly , I notice , particularly from the younger people!

  • Maybe Jess Phillips can be encouraged to join us, she certainly is much more of a liberal, than a trade unionist socialist.

    The party could do with her putting the moral case for feminism, which is not appreciated by the far left in her party.

  • Stimpson

    “Maybe Jess Phillips”

    Well she self describes as a socialist rather than any sort of Liberal.

    As for her ability to make the case for anything she has been shown to be very easily trolled (in the original sense of the word) to come out with positions that are far from helpful to any party’s cause, better she says put.

    We previously had a situation where female LibDem weren’t defined by their gender and could simply be excellent candidates at doing their jobs, the trauma of 2015 appears to have knocked that. I don’t think that trauma is likely to have a satisfactory solution for some time.

  • Caracatus

    “sheer fantasy”

    Really, If I heard a Female LibDem MP on the radio or TV before the 2015 election I would assume that they were there to talk about the topic of the day from the perspective of the parties position. Occasionally that would be something the media considers “women’s issues” but most of the time it would not be a gendered subject. With Labour (even though they had far more Women MPs) if I were to hear that they had a women MP to discuss something there was a higher likelihood (not always) it would be something the media had deemed a “women’s issue.”

    I don’t think I have seen any LibDem women being put font and centre on any issue that is not considered Gendered since 2015, there will be some examples, as there are some who hold portfolios but the noticeable appearances have men speaking no the non-gendered issues and women being put forward for interview on “women’s issues” perhaps you consider it fantasy but it looks from the point of view (to someone only paying slightly more attention than the average person to the media on politics) that Women have managed to be relegated to a limited pool of issues when they previously would have had covered a full portfolio of issues.

  • Caracatus

    “all the best Popes have been men”

    Well, some of the LibDems best candidates for their next “pope” pre 2015 were women after 5 years of the LibDems having them visible on a limited range of topics how many will assume next time the best candidate will be?

    May was periodically shoved out by Cameron to speak on “women’s issues” but she clearly tried to get any attention on her focused on non-gendered issues, and what happened to her?

  • Melissa Hadjicostas 1st Sep '16 - 7:39pm

    Hopefully we will remove Jess Phillips from Parliament at the next election.

    http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/news/regional-affairs/birmingham-lib-dem-leaders-warning-11306908

  • Melissa Hadjicostas

    I certainly hope so.

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