WPUK Manifesto: this is what we want

On 20th May 2019, we published our draft manifesto and asked for responses. Thank you to everyone who suggested amendments or ideas. We are delighted to publish a revised version of the manifesto.

We want to get this to every MP, MSP and AM in the country. If you agree with our demands, please make sure your political representative sees a copy.

Woman’s Place UK is a group of people from a range of backgrounds including trade unions, women’s organisations, academia and the NHS. We are united by our belief that women’s hard-won rights must be defended.

We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment. Women face entrenched and endemic structural inequality. This is reflected, for example, in the high levels of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls; the ‘gender’ pay gap; discrimination at work. This is why sex is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act (2010) which we believe must be defended.

This is what we want.

Economic status

Take action to achieve equal pay, such as compulsory equal pay audits, the collection of sex disaggregated data and better enforcement of the Equality Act 2010.

Introduce, as a right, a Citizens’ Pension based on the Dutch tax-funded model, payable at state pension age to each long-term resident and set at the Minimum Income Standard.

Reinstate universal child benefit for all children.

Value the caring work done by women. Invest in social infrastructure, including access to free universal childcare and adult social care.

Improve access to the labour market for women and an end to occupational segregation.

Prohibit redundancy in pregnancy and maternity; increased rates of Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance, the right to breastfeed at work, and reinstatement of Sure Start grants.

Introduce a day one right to flexible working.

Increase levels of asylum support and protection.

Overhaul of the Universal Credit system to:

  • End the family cap that leaves children without welfare support;
  • Scrap the rape clause that forces mothers to disclose rape or coercive control;
  • Reduce the wait for payments;
  • Allow for separate payments by default;
  • Improve work incentives for second earners;
  • Restore the disregard for Maternity Allowance.

Restore the link between Local Housing Allowance and average rents.

An end to violence, harassment and abuse of women and girls

Recognise prostitution as sexually abusive exploitation which is harmful to all women and girls.

Implement the abolitionist model, criminalising those who exploit prostituted people (including pimps and sex buyers) and decriminalising the prostituted, providing practical and psychological exiting support.

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 10.16.28.pngRatify the Istanbul Convention.

Sustainable investment from national government, proportionate to demand, to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG), including single-sex support services, and specialist independent services run by and for women, BME women, migrant women, disabled women, lesbians, and services tackling FGM and other harmful practices.

Highlight and tackle the harms of pornography including the exploitation of women in its production and the hostile culture it creates for all women and girls in society.

Legislate to protect women and girls from the impact of porn culture on their lives, including clear penalties for image-based sexual abuse.

End ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ for abused migrant women, extend the Domestic Violence Rule and the Destitution and Domestic Violence Concession.

Improved access to healthcare

Free access for all women, including women in Northern Ireland and migrant women, to NHS services, including maternity care and abortion services.

Fund research and national collection of sex-specific data on women’s medical needs and the provision of woman-centred healthcare.

Implement the NHS strategy of Elimination of Mixed Sex Accommodation in hospitals.

Commit to uphold right to request a female clinician, carer or support worker and to have that request respected.

Female-only services for those with sex-specific conditions, mental health, drug and alcohol problems.

Challenge the bias in design and research which is based on a male standard to ensure that the sex-based needs and health and safety of women are properly addressed.

Education and training

Statutory provision of fully-funded and properly resourced inclusive Relationships & Sex Education taught by trained education staff.

An end to the provision of education by lobby groups and untrained or unregulated providers in all state schools and colleges. All external providers should conform to a statutory code of conduct and comply with the law including the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Introduce a duty on schools and colleges to challenge harmful gender, sex and other stereotypes.

Include women’s history and women role models as part of the statutory curriculum.

Address barriers to, and encourage representation of, women and girls in STEM and other male-dominated subjects.

Restore funding for adult education, Further Education, English as a Second Language, Higher Education, recognising the disproportionate impact these cuts have had on women.

Robust defence of the human right to freedom of speech in academia.

Take action to end sexualised violence against girls and women in education, and train teachers to tackle VAWG in schools, colleges and universities.

Law and criminal justice system

As a minimum, protect the human rights and laws we currently enjoy as European citizens.

Strengthen the Equality Act by restoring the statutory questionnaire; the duty to protect from third party harassment; and the power of tribunals to make wider recommendations. Enact Section 1 to compel action to reduce socio-economic disadvantage.

Enforce Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Act, including duty on government and local authorities to carry out equality impact assessments of all new legislation.

Properly resource the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to ensure effective oversight and enforcement of the Equality Act by including clear guidance on the existing legal protections for single-sex services and a commitment to strengthening them where necessary.

Enshrine UN Convention to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into UK law.

Defend women’s bodily autonomy and decriminalise abortion across the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Remove barriers to the employment tribunal system including extending time limit and increasing awards.

Better treatment by police and criminal justice system of women survivors of male violence and harassment as well as improved access to justice.

Overhaul aggressive immigration laws and end the hostile environment policy

Ensure equal access to the social security and criminal justice system for all women who have experienced domestic abuse, including migrant women, regardless of their immigration status.

End the practice by the criminal justice system of allowing offenders to self-identify their sex – particularly in relation to violent and sexual offences.

Corston
For a woman-centred approach

Better support and protection for women prisoners, including pregnant women and women with mental health issues.

Implement the recommendations of the Corston and Angiolini reports and reduce the imprisonment of women.

Effective resourcing and implementation of community-based sentencing for women offenders. Where women are housed in the prison estate, accommodation must be single-sex to protect their privacy, safety and dignity.

End the detention of children and pregnant asylum seekers.

Provide adequate levels of legal aid for criminal cases, restore civil legal aid as well as aid for all immigration and asylum cases.

Representation and participation in public life/media/culture/politics/sport

Increase representation of women (especially black and minority ethnic, working class, disabled, older, younger and lesbian women) in all walks of public life, including political activities and the labour movement.

Defend the use of sex-based mechanisms such as all-women shortlists.

Reinstate UK Women’s National Commission to ensure women’s voices are heard in public debate and policy making.

Government inquiry into media reporting of VAWG.

Action to end sexist, demeaning, objectifying, stereotypical images of women and girls throughout society and in particular in media, arts, advertising and the political sphere.

Proactive encourage women to participate in sports, leisure and the arts. Women’s and girls’ sport should be funded to the same level as men’s and boys’ from school to elite sports.

Support for sex-segregated sports, promoting a level playing field for competitions and encouraging and recognising the excellence of female competitors.

Women should be supported to pursue their right to freedom of association, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Read our original demands and our resolutions for 2019.

 

Lesbians at Edinburgh Pride: a personal account

In this adapted version of a twitter thread, Jackie Mearns gives this account of her day at Edinburgh Pride.

So. My personal account of my day at @PrideEdinburgh.

I met up with some lesbians who wanted to make sure that we had #LesbianVisibility at this year’s Pride. We had banners and placards, and some were wearing t-shirts that proudly proclaimed that ‘we are LESBIANS’.

There was maybe about 12 or 13 of us, ages ranging from early 20s to mid 60s. We gathered together a short distance from the rally point, and the first thing that struck me was the undercurrent of nervousness that prevailed instead of a sense of joy and celebration.

Why would Lesbians feel nervous about attending Pride?

Why SHOULD Lesbians have any fear about attending Pride at all?

Isn’t Pride about us as much as the rest of the alphabet soup?

Why should the simple act of proclaiming who we are be associated with dread?

In 2019 ffs??

Because, dear reader, LESBIANS ARE NO LONGER WELCOME AT PRIDE. The fact that we are same sex attracted, not same “gender” (and thus naturally exclude men in our choice of partner however they “identify”) makes us pariahs. As long as we stay silent, we can slip under the radar.

But proudly and unapologetically claim our space on a day that is meant to be about celebrating our love for each other as females and we become targets of hate.

Worse: official government sanctioned targets of hate.

At least that’s how it felt waiting for the march to start.

65363512_2346750225648501_373487336698150912_nWe arrived at the rallying point outside the Scottish Parliament and peacefully spread out our banners and held up our placards: ‘Lesbian Visibility’, ‘Lesbian, Not Queer’, ‘Transactivism Erases Lesbians’.

We wanted visibility. And Pride still has its roots in protest, no?

Certainly, that was what MSP Patrick Harvie (who I will come back to in a moment) reminded the crowds. We held our banners and sang some songs. Some tourist types took our photos. Some young Lesbians came up to us and said they wished they had known we were marching and bemoaned the lack of Lesbian spaces and community in Scotland. They seemed relieved to see they were not alone, with their hand-made purple and black Labrys placard, quietly proclaiming their Lesbian existence, transparently relieved to have support and solidarity.

I’m glad I’m not young any more, and have to start from a place where there are no male free spaces, even for Lesbians. I was so delighted to see them and thanked them for their courage.

But. WHY SHOULD IT TAKE COURAGE FOR LESBIANS TO ATTEND PRIDE IN THE FIRST PLACE???

Contrary to some accounts I have seen, we were not booed at the rally. There was an act of physical aggression when an angry young person grabbed a placard I was holding and tried to rip it up, shouting “TERF” in my face, but this was quickly handled by stewards and police liaison and I’ve honestly faced down worse violence from violent men than a ripped placard.

Kind of goes with the female terroritory, sad to say.

But what did chill me and did stir some actual fear for how I and the others might fare on Pride was the speeches given by MSPs from the top of the open top bus. In particular the words of Patrick Harvie, Green MSP, where he felt the need to apologise for the democratic workings of Parliament, and the decision taken this week to put the brakes on GRA reform until the full due consideration and further deliberation by a broad range of groups affected by these reforms and, importantly, the conflation of sex and gender that has infested our policy making.

He said, “I am sorry that this parliament very recently was used as a platform for transphobic hatred and bigotry”.

This whipped the crowd up onto a bit of a frenzy, since they had already been primed by the previous speeches that whilst the “theme” of this year’s Pride is “Be Yourself”, the main focus (as it’s been for several years) isn’t about the right to love and express that love without prejudice, it is about “trans rights” front and centre.

I can’t remember the last time Lesbians were ever front and centre in anything LGBTQI+++ related – can you?

So, the need for Lesbians taking space IN PRIDE is pressing. For we are being erased.

I felt Patrick Harvie’s speech inflamed an already dangerous situation for Lesbians on Pride. It did make me fearful, since immediately after, some people started shouting about getting the ‘TERFs’ out – it was obvious they meant us. We had already been blocked in by some very tall people wearing ‘Trans’ and ‘Non-Binary’ flags draped over their shoulders – quite literally and intentionally making us and our ‘Lesbian Visibility’ banners invisible.

Thanks to the spittle infused rhetoric espoused by Patrick Harvie MSP, our situation went from hostile to dangerous. I thought politicians had some standards in public life to stick to. Certainly, I don’t expect them to inflame the flames and put people (Lesbians) in danger of mob attack.

I was dismayed to find out later that my sisters who joined the march were harassed by marchers behind them, had bells rung and whistles painfully blown in their ears and even had a missile thrown at them in the shape of a juice bottle, that fortunately missed them but unfortunately hit a tourist photographing the parade.

They left the march of their own volition; unwilling to make their selves a target for hate any longer and fearing that the bells and whistles might turn into blows or worse.

It was obvious this would happen. The marchers had been well and truly whipped up into a ‘righteous’ anger by our MSPs and others who spoke from that open-top bus at the pre march rally.

The rally where Lesbians were intentionally blocked-in and made invisible.

Where women were told they were bigots for standing up for Female Rights and expecting our politicians to do the same;

Where it was made crystal clear to us that LESBIANS ARE NOT ONLY NO LONGER WELCOME BUT ARE NO LONGER SAFE AT PRIDE.

@Jackieme2009