Nicky Morgan, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Education, is one of four women now allowed to attend Cabinet.
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Was this reshuffle really a "purge of the middle aged men"?

There are still more than three times as many men as women in David Cameron's government.

David Cameron's new Cabinet may have purged a number of middle-aged men, as George Eaton reported yesterday, but his new ministerial line-up is still dominated by men.

Eight ministers who had the right to attend Cabinet have either resigned or retired – Andrew Lansley, George Young, Owen Paterson, Ken Clarke, David Jones, Lord Hill, Dominic Grieve and David Willetts. Seven other MPs have now been given the right to attend Cabinet, of whom three are women.

Given that Nicky Morgan had the right to attend Cabinet before today – although she did not hold a full Cabinet post – Cameron has actually added given more new men the right to attend Cabinet than women.

Before today, just five women were allowed to attend Cabinet, out of 34 ministers.

Now, after Cameron gave that right to Liz Truss, Esther McVey and Baroness Stowell, eight women can do so – but that pales in comparison to the 25 men who can.

Perhaps more importantly, most of the top jobs in Cabinet are still being filled by men. Before today the five women who could attend Cabinet were:

Theresa May – Home Secretary
Justine Greening – International Development
Theresa Villiers – Northern Ireland
Baroness Warsi – Faith and Communities 
Nicky Morgan – Financial Secretary to the Treasury (neither Warsi or Morgan were full 
Cabinet ministers but had the right to attend)

Four of those women have kept their jobs, and Nicky Morgan has now been made Education Secretary, replacing Michael Gove. She is the only women to have been put into a particuarly high-profile position.

Liz Truss has been made Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. While the department may matter more to the Tories than most, it is hardly one of the top jobs Cameron had to offer.

Of the other two women, Esther McVey has been given the right to attend Cabinet but has stayed in her role as Minister for Employment, and Baroness Stowell has been made Leader of the House of Lords – a position of relatively low impact. 

Cameron may have doubled the number of women who can attend Cabinet, but he has put many of them in peripheral roles.

 

Update: The House of Lords, one of the four positions given to a woman, has been downgraded from a full Cabinet post, as it was when Lord Hill filled the position, to a sub-Secretary of State who just "also attends Cabinet".

Correction: These charts have been corrected to show that Nicky Morgan had the right to attend Cabinet before today's promotion. 

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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A new German law wants to force mothers to reveal their child’s biological father

The so-called “milkmen’s kids law” would seek protection for men who feel they have been duped into raising children they believe are not biologically theirs – at the expense of women’s rights.

The German press call them “Kuckuckskinder”, which translates literally as “cuckoo children” – parasite offspring being raised by an unsuspecting innocent, alien creatures growing fat at the expense of the host species’ own kind. The British press have opted for the more Benny Hill-esque “milkmen’s kids”, prompting images of bored Seventies housewives answering the door in negligées before inviting Robin Asquith lookalikes up to their suburban boudoirs. Nine months later their henpecked husbands are presented with bawling brats and the poor sods remain none the wiser.

Neither image is particularly flattering to the children involved, but then who cares about them? This is a story about men, women and the redressing of a legal – or is it biological? – injustice. The children are incidental.

This week German Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced a proposal aimed at to providing greater legal protection for “Scheinväter” – men who are duped into raising children whom they falsely believe to be biologically theirs. This is in response to a 2015 case in which Germany’s highest court ruled that a woman who had told her ex-husband that her child may have been conceived with another man could not be compelled to name the latter. This would, the court decided, be an infringement of the woman’s right to privacy. Nonetheless, the decision was seen to highlight the need for further legislation to clarify and strengthen the position of the Scheinvater.

Maas’ proposal, announced on Monday, examines the problem carefully and sensitively before merrily throwing a woman’s right to privacy out of the window. It would compel a woman to name every man she had sexual intercourse with during the time when her child may have been conceived. She would only have the right to remain silent in cases should there be serious reasons for her not to name the biological father (it would be for the court to decide whether a woman’s reasons were serious enough). It is not yet clear what form of punishment a woman would face were she not to name names (I’m thinking a scarlet letter would be in keeping with the classy, retro “man who was present at the moment of conception” wording). In cases where it did transpire that another man was a child’s biological father, he would be obliged to pay compensation to the man “duped” into supporting the child for up to two years.

It is not clear what happens thereafter. Perhaps the two men shake hands, pat each other on the back, maybe even share a beer or two. It is, after all, a kind of gentlemen’s agreement, a transaction which takes place over the heads of both mother and child once the latter’s paternity has been established. The “true” father compensates the “false” one for having maintained his property in his absence. In some cases there may be bitterness and resentment but perhaps in others one will witness a kind of honourable partnership. You can’t trust women, but DNA tests, money and your fellow man won’t let you down.

Even if it achieves nothing else, this proposal brings us right back to the heart of what patriarchy is all about: paternity and ownership. In April this year a German court ruled that men cannot be forced to take paternity tests by children who suspect them of being their fathers. It has to be their decision. Women, meanwhile, can only access abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy, and even then counselling is mandatory (thereafter the approval of two doctors is required, similar to in the UK). One class of people can be forced to gestate and give birth; another can’t even be forced to take a DNA test. One class of people can be compelled to name any man whose sperm may have ventured beyond their cervix; another is allowed to have a body whose business is entirely its own. And yes, one can argue that forcing men to pay money for the raising of children evens up the score. Men have always argued that, but they’re wrong.

Individual men (sometimes) pay for the raising of individual children because the system we call patriarchy has chosen to make fatherhood about individual ownership. Women have little choice but to go along with this as long as men exploit our labour, restrict our access to material resources and threaten us with violence. We live in a world in which it is almost universally assumed that women “owe” individual men the reassurance that it was their precious sperm that impregnated us, lest we put ourselves and our offspring at risk of poverty and isolation. Rarely do any of us dare to protest. We pretend it is a fair deal, even that reproductive differences barely affect our lives at all. But the sex binary – the fact that sperm is not egg and egg is not sperm – affects all of us.

The original 2015 ruling got it right. The male demand for reassurance regarding paternity is an infringement of a woman’s right to privacy. Moreover, it is important to see this in the context of all the other ways in which men have sought to limit women’s sexual activity, freedom of movement and financial independence in order to ensure that children are truly “theirs”.  Anxiety over paternity is fundamentally linked to anxiety over female sexuality and women’s access to public space. Yet unless all women are kept under lock and key at all times, men will never, ever have the reassurance they crave. Even then, the abstract knowledge that you are the only person to have had the opportunity to impregnate a particular woman cannot rival the physical knowledge of gestation.

We have had millennia of pandering to men’s existential anxieties and treating all matters related to human reproduction, from sex to childbirth, as exceptional cases meaning women cannot have full human rights. Isn’t it about time we tried something new? How about understanding fatherhood not as winning gold in an Olympic sperm race, but as a contract endlessly renewed?

What each of us receives when a child is born is not a biological entity to do with as we choose. It is a relationship, with all of its complexities and risks. It is something worth contributing to and fighting for. Truly, if a man cannot understand that, then any money wasted on a Kuckuckskind – a living, breathing child he could get to know – has got to be the least of his worries. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.