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Women’s equality risks going backwards due to government cuts, according to a report published today.
The UK Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW] Working Group and Women’s Resource Centre are launching their Shadow Report today. It comes two months before the UK government is due to be examined by the UN CEDAW Committee on its women’s human rights record.
The report highlights the key areas where it says women’s rights in the UK have come to a standstill and says some are being reversed. It states: “Government policies and austerity measures are disproportionately impacting on women and the rights that were fought so hard for are now being reduced.”
The Shadow Report highlights the following concerns:
– Violence against women and girls (VAWG). The reports says this still occurs in the UK at “epidemic proportions” and that austerity measures, which have led to high unemployment and increased debt, “are creating an increase in violence and impacting on women’s safety as support services are being cut”.
– Legal support and access to justice for women suffering discrimination and violence. It says these are being reduced limiting women’s access to legal advice and services in areas of civil law and for criminal cases.
– Government policies around welfare benefits and other support. These, says the report, are disproportionately impacting on the most vulnerable and it believes measures such as the Universal Credit will see women “trapped in violent relationships with nowhere to turn for support”.
– Women’s specific health needs. These are not being addressed, says the report. “We still see more women than men reporting debilitating mental health problems, while there are GPs who illegally perform female genital mutilation. The localisation of healthcare and changes to the National Health Service also risks women falling through the gaps in provision and is why a gendered approach to health is even more important. There is also a danger that women’s reproductive rights will be rolled back with government support”.
– The UK’s asylum policies. These, it says are placing at risk those women who have fled violence overseas to find safety in the UK and it adds that women with ‘no recourse to public funds’ still face destitution as a result of government policy.
– Female unemployment is at a 25-year high and there has been little movement on the gender pay gap, says the report. “The widespread closure of Sure Start Centres and the high cost of childcare, which is the highest in Europe, also leads many women not to seek work at all,” it states.
– Representation of women. “Women continue to be under-represented in politics and decision making positions and the representation of women in the media remains unequal and damaging, reinforcing gender-based stereotypes and sexism,” says the report.
– Cuts in Government support for women’s NGOs and decentralisation of power to local authorities. This means that local services for women are closing at a fast rate leading to a lack of appropriate, accessible services for many women, it states.
“The Government must face up to their international obligations under CEDAW to protect and advance the rights of women in the UK. It is unacceptable for the UK to be reversing women’s rights and austerity cannot be an excuse – the legacy of these changes will be felt for generations so we must ensure that the UN holds them to account and they do not continue to roll back women’s rights in the UK,” says Vivienne Hayes, Chief Executive of the Women’s Resource Centre.