Tomorrow marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed women, and all men, to vote for the first time. This anniversary is something we should celebrate but it also gives us the opportunity to look at gender equality more widely.
There is so much that still needs to happen – laws and culture that need to change – before women will be equal to men and the lives of women in the UK are improved.
The Tories have a lot to answer for. Often, it is their ideological obsession with austerity that hurts women the most. They need to get with the times and as a start, I’ve provided them with a checklist.
The Rape Clause
It is utterly abhorrent that a woman who has a third child as the result of rape, must justify her position to a government official in order to avoid losing tax credits.
Even Ruth Davidson, who has at times been seen as a more progressive Tory, is guilty of supporting this punitive policy.
And even when the UN investigated the rape clause after suspecting it breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Davidson still defends the indefensible.
Ensuring Equal Pay
David Cameron pledged to end the gender pay gap, yet women are still falling behind men when it comes to pay packets.
The Scottish Government have legislated to ensure that public organisations with more than 20 employees will have to publish information on the difference in pay between men and women. At Westminster, we support changing the law to require gender pay gap reporting for all companies with more than 150 employees – down from 250.
The Tory Government need to ensure this transparency, and sanction employers who do not comply.
Commit to Ending Violence Against Women
A bill to criminalise psychological domestic abuse has been passed in the Scottish Parliament, with some campaigners saying it “could change Scotland forever”.
It creates a specific offence of “abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner” and includes psychological abuse such as coercive and controlling behaviour.
A Sex Discrimination Law review launched last week found that violence against women and girls is “endemic” in the UK and concludes that the UK legal system needs fundamental reform. The UK Government should learn from the Scottish Parliament.
Protect Maternity Pay and End Maternity Discrimination
Unlawful maternity and pregnancy discrimination are now more common in the UK’s workplaces than ever before, with as many as one in nine pregnant women forced out of their job each year.
With Brexit on the horizon and a UK Government in chaos, we should all be concerned for workers’ rights.
The Tories are risking important social protections we derive from the EU and are giving themselves powers to change whatever they like without Parliament’s consent.
Scrap The Tampon Tax
My SNP colleague Angela Crawley MP has previously called for the VAT that women pay when buying sanitary products to be scrapped as they are classed as a “luxury item”.
The Tories thought a quick fix was diverting the funds – £15million a year – to women’s charities.
However, women still have to pay this unfair tax and women alone should not have to financially support such causes.