Today the 3rd of November I read a Facebook message suggesting that women are under siege. This no doubt relates to the exposure of men’s routine assaults upon women in the Media especially in the USA and now the revelations of assault and rape occurring in the House of Commons in Britain. I have little doubt that more women will have more confidence to name the abuse that has happened to the, many may come forward.
We have been under siege by not being able to talk the routine abuse that women and girls have/are experiencing. The problem appears to be about power and a sense of entitlement that some men clearly demonstrate. The challenge is to confront that power with an alternative model of conduct and insist that if women are equal, we require equal access to jobs and services without molestation.
I remember a Disciplinary Hearing I was Chairing many years ago when I sacked a manager who had admitted he had touched a woman who worked with him and had argued that it was a bit of a joke and did no harm. I asked him one simple question- where on his job description did it say he should/could touch his colleagues?
What is very telling about the current outcry in Parliament is how few MP’s and Political Parties seem to know that they are required to comply with the Equality Act 2010 which makes unlawful sexual and racial harassment alongside all other forms of unlawful discrimination, and our MPs don’t know what these laws say and how they apply to each of them.
I can’t help being Party Political in part in my angry response to these claims of sexual harassment. Labour Governments pass equality laws since the 1965 and 68 Race Relations Acts through the 1970 Equal Pay Act, 1974, Sex Discrimination Act and Race Relations Act 1976. Labour Governments may have passed the laws, but they did not do much about implementing them.
Only after the Enquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder and its investigation did some real change begin to be introduced but as soon as the Conservative Government came into power in 2010 they took away most of the teeth of that Act. And of course, in the savage cuts to Civil Service and Local Government budgets, training on what our equalities laws contain, was the first thing to go.
I must declare an interest since I was one of the many trainers helping Public Authorities understand and implement equality law. But this is not about us Equality trainers it is about ensuring that equality laws are understood by those who need to assert their rights in the face of discrimination and those who are paid to deliver services to the public, including MPs and Ministers. No, they can’t make up laws as they go along any more than I can. And no, I don’t think a 20 minute online course will do it.