Monday, November 12, 2007

why women only? Cameron speaks out

David Cameron has spoken out today about the disgracefully low percentage of convictions for rape in a speech at the Conservative Women's Organisation conference. Follow the link for the BBC story.

There was a discussion on Woman's Hour (radio 4) about his proposals which you can listen to here if you missed it. The F-word blog has a post on this topic too. The main points they both make seems to relate to the need to reform the legal system to address the issue of low conviction rates, which Cameron has not directly addressed.

Cameron pledged longer-term funding for rape crisis centres, to change attitudes towards rape through sex education and announced a Tory review of sentencing.

He said "Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it's okay to force a woman to have sex" and called for "widespread cultural change" as treating women as sex objects has become viewed as "cool".

He called for compulsory sex education in schools to drive home the message that sex without consent is a criminal offence.

Cameron referred to statistics suggesting one in 20 women had been raped, yet three-quarters of them never report the crime. And of those that are reported, just 5.7% result in a conviction.

He also said the number of rape crisis support centres had fallen from 68 in 1984 to 45, and funding decisions on those that remained were short-term and being made mid-way through the financial year. "As a result, these centres are forced to survive hand-to-mouth and often face the threat of imminent closure," he said. "All this has led to an appalling and tragic lack of support for the victims of rape."

As a socialist I feel concern that it is a Tory that has had to raise this issue. Despite this, I find myself saying "good on him for getting us talking about it in the mainstream". I have not yet heard the Government's response but I am very disappointed that they did not lead the debate.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

why women only?

The latest report from the Women's Resource Centre sets out the arguments and evidence of the benefits of a ‘women-only’ approach in a climate where women’s organisations are increasingly being asked to justify their ‘women-only’ status.

The research was featured in the Guardian here. The research, based on a survey of 101 women's voluntary groups and a random sample of 1,000 women, found that 97% of women wanted choice of a women-only service after sexual assault and 78% preferred access to a female counsellor.

"The public thinks women have got equality and we don't need women's services any longer. But our research has shown that women want the choice to access women-only services as diverse as gyms, training, and drug and alcohol counselling, not just rape and domestic violence."

The report can be downloaded from the WRC website here.

The WRC urge you to write a letter to the Minister for the Third Sector Minister and the Minister for Women to ask them to support women’s organisations.

The original Why Women? report and a free DVD called "Why Women?" to help you campaign, are available from the WRC on the Why Women website.

The WRC have 2 events coming up -
  • On Wednesday 14 November WRC and Women Acting in Today’s Society are holding an important meeting in Birmingham to plan for a national women’s sector forum. This strategy day is open to all organisations that want to help develop a stronger women’s voluntary and community sector.
  • Making Rights Real is a conference on 15th November in Birmingham for voluntary and community organisations working to tackle inequality and promote human rights.

the value of women

Why are women, generally, globally, believed to be of less value than men?

This question arose in my house after watching "India's Missing Girls" on BBC TV a couple of weeks ago. This was a moving programme. UN figures state that 750,000 girls are aborted every year in India and others are killed when very young. There are now only 840 girls for every 1,000 boys according to Indian government information.

The main rationale for this is the high cost of dowries that families have to find in order to pay a man's family for him to marry their daughter. But this is not just an economic issue, as abortion of female foetus's is common in wealthier families.

So, this led me and my partner, T to wonder and discuss how this ridiculous and terrifying position came to be. It is not the case in every culture, but it's almost globally the case that women are not seen as valuable compared to men. The UK situation regarding unequal pay is a good local example of the same issue.

Could it be that it's because it is almost impossible to tell who the father of a child is, but it's certain who the mother is, when she gives birth, and so men have to control women if they are going to be certain of their heir? It cannot be that men are more necessary in order to pro-create, as the opposite is true, one man can father children with many women.

Could it be that on average men are physically stronger than women, despite women tending to do much of the physical domestic work worldwide. This means that in a capitalist world, where labour is needed to generate profit for those in power, brawn is prized? Women ensure the next generation of labourers grow up strong, but one woman can bring up many boys to be labourers, but it helps if she has the support of others to do so.

Do we need to understand why, in order for there to be a new world order? India is the world's biggest democracy yet it is still a highly unequal society. The power to make changes through political decision making is not an answer in itself. Changing the culture is much more complex. The whole of global society is predicated upon the lesser value of women.