Britain is failing women

How the UK was criticised for being in breach of key elements of a UN convention relating to tacklin

Britain has come under fire for being in breach of key elements of a United Nations convention relating to tackling violence against women.

The CEDAW Committee (the UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against all women) didn't mince its words in condemning the UK government, branding its shortcomings "alarming" for a developed country.

The convention is not concerned so much with equal treatment, but with equal access and equal benefits. It acknowledges on its own the framing of a gender neutral policy - meaning one that neither favours men nor women but treats both equally - may not be enough to deliver fair treatment for all.

Support for women to rebuild their lives after sexual violence must be a right, not a privilege determined by where women live and the services in their locality. There must be greater recognition of the importance, and protection of, women-only space for victims of sexual violence

The CEDAW Convention promotes two approaches to equality. First, the convention stresses the importance of equality in relation to women's equal access to the resources of a country.

Representing National Rape Crisis England and Wales, the irony about the resources didn't escape us. Our organisation continues to be underfunded, lurching from one financial crisis to another.

Since our return from the United Nations in mid July we have been waiting in anticipation for the CEDAW Committee's concluding observations on the UK Government's oral and written reports.

It is so rare for us to experience an official committee acknowledging, understanding and validating women's concerns that we want to draw attention to selected edited highlights in the hope we ensure the UK government meets their CEDAW obligations:

    Non-governmental organizations

  • The Committee notes that changes in the allocation of Government funding from needs-based to 'commissioning' frameworks, and the gender
    neutral interpretation of the Gender Equality Duty, have negatively impacted on funding to women's organizations and the provision of
    'women-only' services, in particular domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centres. Despite the establishment by the Government of an
    interim short-term emergency fund, the Committee notes with concern the impending closure of a number of rape crisis centres, as well as of
    domestic violence shelters, women's health organizations and black, minority and ethnic women's organizations.
  • The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that non-governmental organizations are able to effectively contribute to the
    continuing implementation of the Convention. It urges the State party to provide increased and sustained funding to non-governmental
    organizations and other civil society groups involved in the area of women's rights. It also recommends that the State party ensure that the
    interpretation and application of the Gender Equality Duty does not negatively impact on the provision of 'women-only' services or restrict
    the activities of women's organizations. It further recommends that the State party conduct an impact assessment of its 'commissioning'
    frameworks on the funding of women's organizations. The Committee requests the State party to include information on funding of
    non-governmental organizations and women's organizations in its next report.
  • Violence against Women

  • The Committee is concerned about the continuing prevalence of violence against women and girls, including domestic and sexual
    violence, and about the low prosecution and conviction rates of sexual violence cases. The Committee remains concerned about the absence of a
    comprehensive national strategy and programme to combat all forms of violence against women and girls. The Committee notes with concern the
    lack of adequate support and services for victims, including shelters, which is compounded by the funding crisis facing non-governmental
    organizations working in the area of violence against women and the forced closures of a number of such organizations
  • The Committee urges the State party to accord priority attention to the adoption of comprehensive measures to address violence against women
    in accordance with its general recommendation 19 on violence against women. The Committee calls on the State party to ensure the full
    implementation of legislation on violence against women, as well as the prosecution and conviction of perpetrators. In line with its previous
    concluding observations of 1999, the Committee also calls on the State party to adopt and implement a unified and multifaceted national
    strategy to eliminate violence against women and girls, which would include legal, education, financial and social components. The Committee
    recommends the expansion of training activities and programmes for parliamentarians, the judiciary and public officials, particularly law
    enforcement personnel and health-service providers, so as that they are sensitized to all forms of violence against women and can provide
    adequate support to victims. It recommends the expansion of public awareness-raising campaigns on all forms of violence against women and
    girls. The Committee also recommends the establishment of additional counselling and other support services for victims of violence,
    including shelters, and requests the State party to enhance its cooperation with and support, in particular adequate and sustained
    funding, for non-governmental organizations working in the area of violence against women.

So there it is, and The United Nations recommending the sustainable long term funding of Rape Crisis Centres, an end to Rape Crisis Centre closures.

Violence against Women is one of the main causes and consequences of women's inequality. The question is will the government meet its international obligations and become CEDAW Compliant? It has to report to CEDAW again in 2009 and 2011.

We're holding our collective breaths...

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times