Brexit: A Step Backward For Women’s Rights?
According to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Brexit could end up threatening years of effort made towards improving gender equality in the UK. The report, “Pressing for progress: women’s rights and gender equality in 2018“, was recently published and is EHRC’s largest review of women’s rights, as per reports.
The report states that important provisions in the 2010 Equality Act aren’t included in the Brexit bill’s current version
The government, although, did promise that provisions will remain in place after the United Kingdom leaves the EU. However, since the provisions aren’t included in the current bill, it is unlikely these will be binding under UK law. “The priority must now be ensuring that women and girls of all ages can enjoy their basic right to feel safe in their everyday lives,” said ECHR Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath.
The report says since the bill is passed in its current form, it wouldn’t include the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The EU Charter upholds rights to non-discrimination, rights of children and right to fair and just working conditions.
This report was presented to the UN Committee in Geneva on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Importantly, the report highlights loss of funding for the EU Rights Equality and Citizenship Program
The program aims to promote equality between genders and prevent violence against children, women and other groups. The report did mention all improvements made in bridging the gender gap in the UK. But it also called out many patches where the country is still at the backseat.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, believes Parliament is still more inclined to a gentlemen’s club. Only 32% of representatives in House of Commons are women, ranking the UK 41st in the world on that basis.
Although movements like #MeToo continue to call out areas where women suffer, sexual harassment at the workplace continues to be a problem
The number of victims of sexual offences in the UK is on the rise. About 95% of rape victims are women, the report says. Discrimination concerning maternity also remains a serious problem. As many as 54,000 mothers lose their jobs each year simply for being pregnant. Although the employment rate for women is rising, it still falls way below that of men.
The importance of the European Union in promoting policies supporting gender equality was the subject of a panel debate in London earlier this year. EHRC believes loss of EU support resulting from Brexit arrangements will hamper the work done for women’s rights. EHRC recommends that the UK must ensure any loss of EU funding shouldn’t result in disabling systems working towards equality.