So in no particular order (How can you class one campaign as being better or more important than another, when they’re all trying to do excellent things?!), here are the gender equality and women’s campaigns you really need to know about!
- 50:50 Parliament
No, not the Joseph Gorden-Levitt film! The 50:50 Parliament campaign is a petition designed to challenge the frankly abhorrent status quo of Westminster. Currently, 77% of Parliament are men yet women make up 51% of the population. Supposedly we live in a ‘representative democracy’ but that representation only really applies if you’re a white, middle class, privately educated man. Common sense would suggest that if we truly lived in a democracy, we would have a Parliament that was 50% women, 50% men. Given that the General Election is next year, politicians are pulling out all the stops to win over women and disaffected voters and it’s time to grab their attention on the issue.
Well that’s what the 50:50 Parliament are trying to achieve. They are a growing campaign that is sure to make an impact. Their website features lots of interesting resources about why fair representation is important and how people who are interested in the campaign can take part. In fact, my friend Kate Delaney, who I work with on the Cardiff Women’s Association, has done a brilliant job of raising their profile.
At the time of writing, the petition had received over 2000 signatures so it’s imperative that more people sign in order to get party leaders to debate on this issue.
Here’s where you can find out more:
- No More Page 3
With its’ catchy subheading ‘Because boobs aren’t news’, No More Page 3’s aim is simple: to get rid of the topless woman in the UK’s most circulated newspaper ‘The Sun’. When Jessica Ennis had won the gold medal for the women’s heptathlon in the 2012 London Olympic games, founder Lucy Ann Holmes was dismayed that on the same day, the biggest image of a woman in ‘The Sun’ was of a topless woman. Despite this enormous achievement, more coverage was still given to a woman
So far the campaign has done tremendously since it started up in August 2012, receiving over 190,000 signatures. It has received the support of numerous institutions such as the National Assembly of Wales, Mumsnet, Unison, Women’s Aid as well as former glamour models. It’s also wonderful to see that Cardiff University has taken a stance as an issue by boycotting the ‘The Sun’ from the Union shop.
I think the important thing to recognise with this campaign is to realise that the founders aren’t stating that getting rid of Page 3 will improve the plight of women everywhere. But the removal of Page 3 is a move in the right direction to recognising that a women’s worth is not based on her body and that sexualised imagery does not belong in a ‘family’ newspaper.
Here’s where you can find more information and sign the petition:
- Counting Dead Women
Karen Ingala Smith started this campaign in 2012 to draw attention to the fact that femicide (the killing of women) is a grievous and more widespread problem than the British public and the British government would like to believe. It is an unfortunate and well-known statistic that in the UK it is estimated that on average 2 women a week are killed by their current or former male partner. Specifically, the number of UK women killed through male violence in 2012, was 126 and in 2013 it was 143. That means one dead woman every 2.55 days.
Her website makes for some chilling and morbid reading. With meticulous attention to detail, Ingala Smith has named every woman that has been killed by male violence in the past two years, alongside her age, cause of death and name of killer. As well as substituting a source of information that the mainstream media has neglected to provide, the campaign aims to humanise these poor women.
The lack of coverage of the media and the lack of action by the government has not matched up to the sheer brutality and frequency of these acts. At the moment the Home Office’s records does not record the sex of killers nor does it distinguish violence against women as being a specific problem. So the purpose of this campaign is to make Home Office record every incident of when a woman is killed by male violence and a government review into why such killings take place. It needs to be recognised that it is a societal problem not a domestic one.
So far this petition has received nearly 18,000 signatures so there is still some way to go.
Here’s some more information:
Just because this blog post is about campaigns in Britain does not mean that it is purely going to be about British women. On the contrary the ‘Women for Refugee Women’ movement encourages solidarity between British women and refugee women from other countries. The aim of the movement is to end the destitution and detention of refugee women who enter the UK fleeing warzones and severe persecution by treating them with ‘justice and dignity’.
This is an issue I knew very little about before beginning my research, perhaps due to a mixture of lack of media coverage and my own ignorance as a white British woman. Currently, when a woman refugee enters the UK it is not known whether she will granted asylum. This means that a woman will either be detained indefinitely in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire or she will be left destitute, unable to apply for British citizenship. This is a sorry state of affairs, considering that over half of these women have experienced rape or serious violence.
However, this campaign has come on leaps and bounds. In January 2014, ‘Detained’ was released, a report detailing the experiences of women refugees who are detained in the UK. On the day of writing this (7th July 2014), Sarah Theather MP announced a parliamentary inquiry into detention and what needs to be reformed. This petition, started by Meltem Avicil who herself was detained aged 13, has received over 47,000 signatures and just needs another 2,000 to reach its’ target.
To find out some more information on the campaign:
I was astounded when I was reading about this campaign, not because I don’t think it should happen but because my first reaction was ‘Wait! This doesn’t already happen?’ I even asked my Mum about her own marriage certificate just to verify it for me! The current state of marriage certificates only requires a father’s name and profession. This is evidently incompatible with a modern society that recognises that women work, the equality of mothers and fathers and that families do not follow a given template deemed the norm by 19th century standards.
Since this petition was started earlier this year it has received over 68,000 signatures and made marked progress. Thanks to these signatures the issue has been discussed by the House of Commons with 105 MPs signing the Early Days Motion and is on the agenda for both Equality Minister Sajid Javid and Home Secretary Theresa May.
However, this does not mean that the debate is over or indeed that the battle has been won. In times of austerity there are concerns that reforming marriage certificates will cost an estimated £1.5 million. However it has to be placed in perspective how £1.5million is a tiny fraction of Government spending. There is no legitimate excuse and there never has been a legitimate excuse as to why this change cannot take place.
Here’s where you can find out more
I don’t know about you but sex education at my school was pretty dreadful. Vague memories of placing a condom on a plastic rod and watching a woman give birth didn’t really prepare me well for the world of relationships. The Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity who work on improving sexual health and working with individuals who live with HIV and AIDs, have started a petition to make sex and relationships education statutory.
So what does this have to do with women’s rights you may ask? Well the shoddy predicament of sex education in the UK means that the largest form of sex education for young people is pornography. Unrestricted access to hardcore pornography that is orientated around male enjoyment, coupled with a lack of formal sex education leads to a lack of awareness on crucial issues such as consent, sexual health and a distorted view of sex. This inadvertently leads to women thinking they have to be inferior and that their own enjoyment and feelings don’t count in order to satisfy what they think are the norms. Sex needs to be spoken about openly in a safe environment so young people are provided with the correct information to make their own decisions
Here’s where you can find out more!