Why women need to make sure they do not fall behind with Brexit

by Anila Dhami, Binti Ambassador
Thursday, 30 June 2016 14:04 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Since Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, we have seen more than a divide between borders, nations, and the ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ camps. The breaking of the forty-year alliance has highlighted racial tensions within the country, with the nation seeing a rapid rise in race-related hate crime. Discrimination now seems to be openly acceptable, so we need to ensure that we do not also see a rise in female gender inequality in post-Brexit Britain.

When it comes to championing the rights of women, the UK has implemented many Acts outside of the European Union. It was the first to implement the Equal Pay Act, which was then signed by the EU three years later. It implemented The Abortion Act; The Divorce Reform Act; The Sex Discrimination Act; The Domestic Violence Act; and The Employment Protection Act. When the UK has given women so many rights, you may be wondering the purpose of my article?

The EU has always enforced many rights for women that are now in danger. The UK was forced to comply with more stringent laws about equal pay for work of equal value, paid holidays, and flexible working. The EU ensured the enforcement of paid maternity leave and extended parental leave to all working mothers and fathers, not just those in full time directly employed workers. And it ensured higher standards for legislation against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Many who voted to leave the EU wanted the UK to regain sovereignty and autonomous power. With that comes the price of accountability. With the UK no longer having to be accountable to the EU, it is our duty to hold our government to account.

The first and most obvious change that we can make for the progression of womankind is to abolish Tampon Tax introduced by the EU. Thus, by giving back dignity over menstruation and recognising it as a biological fact for many women, we can also push for menstruation to be taught effectively in schools; particularly as protecting the future generation dominated both sides of the referendum campaign.

A report published in 2016 shows that schools are leaving it too late when it comes to teaching education around periods, with 24% starting their periods before it is covered in sex education classes. UK-based charity Binti has started a petition asking for it to be on all school curriculums and at the point at which it will actually help young people.

And, as education is a great leveller, we need to protect our schooling and enhance our education system after Prime Minister David Cameron axed his plan to build more than 700 new schools across Britain.

Along with urging for education around menstruation, the charity Binti provides vulnerable women, such as homeless women and refugees, with free sanitary towels. Coming together to support vulnerable women is paramount at a time when our government will be more preoccupied with untangling itself from the EU than focusing on public services. Some 65% of public service workers are women. Since the Conservative Party came into power, we have seen services cut across the board, from nearly 500 public libraries, to over 1,000 lollipop ladies. When it comes to public services and cuts, women are hit the hardest.

Moreover, one argument in the ‘leave’ campaign was that there are not enough midwives and the NHS is under strain. However, rather than blaming immigration we should recognise that Mr Cameron had pledged to bring in 3000 more midwives and missed his target by almost a third.

Now that we stand alone, we need to come together as a nation to ensure justice is served through accountability and that our government’s promises are kept. We no longer have the EU to blame. And if you blamed Cameron and voted ‘leave’ to see him out, now is your chance to hold then next Prime Minister to account. The EU won’t be doing it, so we will have to. 

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