Is 8 March a day for a wider social celebration? For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you will know that I often find myself taking the side of women against the discrimination they face in our local and global society. Today is no exception.
In the news this week we see young women are about to be penalised by insurance companies who will have to charge the same premium as they do for young male drivers, despite women being a much lower risk. That’s an interesting one as it is presented under gender equality legislation, but clearly discriminates against women.
A report has been published this week about the number of people who are still ‘enslaved’ by people traffickers for reasons of sexual exploitation or slave labour. It is astounding that forced human migration was only made illegal following the Palermo Protocol of 2000, which some countries have not yet signed up to. The UN estimates nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked around the world each year and the European Council suggest a figure $42.5 billion is the value of this illegal trade with most of its victims being are women.
We have seen recently about the perpetuation of women’s discrimination in the workplace – afforded the same rights as male colleagues in legislation, but not always getting them in reality. The glass ceiling is patently evident in many companies.
In the home, women appear more emancipated than in the past, but the current UK government intend putting a premium on people being married; tax breaks are on the way. This makes a huge statement against free choice of living style, affecting many women who choose not to marry.
The incidence of rape is rocketing; at least 47,000 adult women are raped every year in the UK, according to the Fawcett Society. Despite a progressive increase in the number of rapes reported to the police conviction rates are still frighteningly low. In 2004 only 5.3% of those accused were convicted. Nearly 30% of the wider society (men and women alike) think that a woman who is drunk is partially or totally responsible for being raped.
The lists of inequalities goes on; whether looking at mental health statistics, 80% of people involved in self harm are women and over 90% of eating disorder sufferers are women, stories about women in custody or on remand where 65% of women suffer with depression and nearly 40% attempt suicide before getting to prison. The areas of gender discrimination are countless.
So is it a time to celebrate? Of course it is. The fact that the day exists at all is enough of a reason to celebrate, but perhaps with a hint of caution, because still have to get a whole lot better for women, in our homes, across our society and all over the world. A lot more needs to be done before a true celebration can take place. Much of the work is for men to do; we have to recognise that discrimination against women is not solely a legislative matter; it is something we have the power to change. For women reading this I have a little plea; help us (the men) see through the shortcomings of our socialised and often sexist education. Encourage us to challenge things that ‘have always been this way’, then we can party together!