2020 Birthday Honours for Women Working for Women

Margaret Eleanor Baxter
Chair of Trustees, Womankind. For services to Gender Equality in the UK and Abroad

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs
Founder, Surviving Economic Abuse. For services to Victims of Domestic and Economic Abuse

Nicola Norman*
Acting Chief Executive, Women’s Aid Federation of England. For services to the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls

Lisa Marie Johnson*
For services to Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Mandy Wood
Campaigner, Women’s Aid Ambassador. For services to Charitable Fundraising

For New Year and Birthday Honours previous awarded see http://www.womensgrid.org.uk/?s=Honours+for+Women+Working+for+Women

* See also http://www.womensgrid.org.uk/?p=13306

October 16, 2020

Almost one million women in UK miss vital breast screening due to COVID-19

Breast Cancer Now estimates that around 986,000 women missed their mammograms due to breast screening programmes being paused in March 2020, in a bid to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading and to free up emergency resource for the NHS.

Worryingly, the charity anticipates that around 8,600 of the women caught up in this backlog could have been living with undetected breast cancer, with their diagnosis delayed due to the detrimental impact of COVID-19 on the NHS.

While the breast screening programme is now starting up again, at different speeds across the country, availability of appointments has been significantly reduced due to measures to enable social distancing and to prevent COVID-19 spreading. Combined with this, the significant backlog of women waiting for screening, and more women starting to come forward with concerns about possible breast cancer symptoms, will place huge pressure on the imaging and diagnostic workforce which was already over-stretched prior to the pandemic.

Breast Cancer Now is deeply concerned by these delays to breast screening as early detection is critical to preventing women dying from breast cancer. As such, delays have caused some women huge anxiety, and the reality is that if breast cancer is diagnosed at a later stage it may be harder to treat.

This is why the charity is urgently calling on Governments and NHS bodies across the UK to set out how the anticipated influx in demand for imaging and diagnostics will be met. It is also calling on the UK Government to commit in its upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to investing in the NHS cancer workforce to ensure breast cancer cases are diagnosed as early as possible.

These findings come from the charity’s new report published today, Press Play: getting and keeping breast cancer services back on track’, which puts a spotlight on the profound impact COVID-19 has had on breast cancer to date. The report also outlines recommendations as to how Governments and NHS bodies across the UK can tackle this crisis, ensuring rapid progress is made in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and care and that this momentum is maintained even if further peaks of COVID-19 place further pressure on health services.

While screening comes with some risks to be aware of, Breast Cancer Now encourages all women to attend their appointments when invited. The charity also urges women who notice any new or unusual changes in their breasts to get in touch with their GP urgently, and it is critical women continue to do so during the pandemic. While most breast changes won’t be cancer it is crucial to get them checked as the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more likely treatment is to be successful.

Anyone concerned about COVID-19 and breast screening can call the charity’s free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.

Part of a longer press release at https://breastcancernow.org/about-us/media/press-releases/almost-one-million-women-in-uk-miss-vital-breast-screening-due-covid-19


October 16, 2020

24 December 2020 ~ Reforms to hate crime laws to make them fairer, and to protect women for the first time – Law Commission consultation closes

The Law Commission is making proposals to reform hate crime laws to remove the disparity in the way hate crime laws treat each protected characteristic – race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity. The Commission is also proposing that sex or gender be added to the protected characteristics for the first time.

Hate crime refers to existing criminal offences (such as assault, harassment or criminal damage) where the victim is targeted on the basis of hostility towards one or more protected characteristic. There are also specific hate speech offences: the offences of “stirring up hatred”, and the racist chanting at football matches.

However, a number of issues have been raised over how hate crime laws work in practice. The laws are complex, spread across different statutes and use multiple overlapping legal mechanisms. Not all five characteristics are protected equally by the law, and campaigners have also argued for additional characteristics such as sex/gender to be included.

The Law Commission’s proposals to improve hate crime laws include:

  • Adding sex or gender to the protected characteristics.
  • Establishing criteria for deciding whether any additional characteristics should be recognised in hate crime laws, and consulting further on a range of other characteristics, notably “age”.
  • Extending the protections of aggravated offences and stirring up hatred offences to cover all current protected characteristics, but also any characteristics added in the future (including sex or gender). This would ensure all characteristics are protected equally.
  • Reformulating the offences of stirring up hatred to focus on deliberate incitement of hatred, providing greater protection for freedom of speech where no intent to incite hatred can be proven.
  • Expanding the offence of racist chanting at football matches to cover homophobic chanting, and other forms of behaviour, such as gestures and throwing missiles at players.

The current law and criticisms of it

Hate crime laws in England and Wales include multiple, overlapping legal mechanisms. These include aggravated offences, where a more serious form of an offence such as assault, harassment or criminal damage is prosecuted, and enhanced sentences, which require a sentence to be increased because of the hate crime element.

There are also separate offences for stirring up racial hatred, and for stirring up hatred on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. For racial hatred, the behaviour must be “threatening, abusive or insulting.” On the basis of religion or sexual orientation, the words or conduct must be threatening (not merely abusive or insulting).

There have also been calls for hate crime laws to be expanded to include new protected characteristics to tackle hatred such as misogyny and ageism, and hostility towards other groups such as homeless people, sex workers, people who hold non-religious philosophical beliefs (for example, humanists) and alternative subcultures (for example goths or punks).

Some legal definitions including the definition of “transgender” in the current laws have also been criticised for using outdated language.

The Commission’s proposals in more detail

To ensure that hate crime laws are clear and easy to understand and offer suitable protection to victims, the Law Commission is proposing:

  • To add sex or gender to the protected characteristics under hate crime laws. This will enhance protections against crimes based on misogyny.
    • To explore the risk of unintended consequences, the Law Commission has asked questions about the implications of this change in the context of sexual offences and domestic abuse, where there is already a well-established set of laws and practices which aim to protect victims.
  • Establishing criteria for deciding whether any additional characteristics should be recognised in hate crime laws, with new characteristics receiving the same protections as those currently protected.
    • The Commission is also consulting on whether other characteristics and groups such as age, sex workers, homelessness, alternative subcultures (such as being a goth) and philosophical beliefs (such as humanism) should be protected.
  • Extending the protections of aggravated offences and stirring up hatred offences so that all of the five currently protected characteristics are treated equally in law. This would include any additional characteristics that are added at a later date such as sex/gender.
  • Reforming the stirring up hatred offences so that they are less difficult to prosecute in cases where the defendant clearly intended to stir up hatred, but provide greater protection for freedom of expression where such intention cannot be proven.
    • The stirring up offences would be extended to cover incitement of hatred towards disabled and transgender people, and hatred on grounds of sex/gender.
  • Extending the offence of racist chanting at a football match to cover chanting based on sexual orientation. The Commission is also consulting on extending the offence to cover other characteristics and forms of behaviour such as missile throwing and the use of racist gestures.

Next steps

The consultation(*) is open until 24 December 2020. We want to hear from those who have experienced all forms of hate crime, based on all types of characteristics, as well as experts in the area. The responses we get will help inform our final recommendations to Government which we will aim to publish in 2021.

Read the full proposals at https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/reforms-to-hate-crime-laws-to-make-them-fairer-and-to-protect-women-for-the-first-time/

(*) Consultation background papers and online process https://consult.justice.gov.uk/law-commission/hate-crime/

October 6, 2020

More than a third of UK women unsure how to access contraception during COVID-19 – Marie Stopes

A survey of 1,000 UK women, conducted by IPSOS Mori on behalf of Marie Stopes revealed almost a quarter (24%) of UK women have needed to access contraception during COVID-19, but many have been left in the dark about how and where to do so.

  • Less than half (46%) thought they could access contraception through their GP.
  • Less than half (48%) thought they could access contraception through a pharmacy.
  • More than a third (35%) of the women who tried to access a contraceptive service, thought that the service had got worse.

A postcode lottery of care

The diversion of resources to the COVID-19 response combined with chronic underfunding of sexual health over the last 10 years have seen GP surgeries and sexual health centres across the country cancelling ‘non-urgent’ contraception appointments, especially for the most effective long-acting methods in a postcode lottery of care. Some have had to close their doors completely.

Young women and girls aged 16-24 were more likely (34%) than women, 24-35 (29%) to report a need for contraceptive services, with 23% of women aged 35-44 reporting a need for contraception during the pandemic.

More than a third (35%) of the 200 women surveyed who tried to access a contraceptive service, thought that the service had got worse, with around 1 in 7 (14%) stating that there were no appointments available in their area, and just under 1 in 10 (9%) stating the clinics in their area were closed or that the contraception service and/or product they needed was unavailable.

What women want

The survey also asked women what they want from a contraceptive service in a bid to understand how to improve access to contraception for women across the country.

The research revealed that:

  • 44% of women want healthcare providers to give out longer supplies of pills or condoms
  • Nearly a third (31%) want easier access to free-short term contraception at pharmacies, by removing the need for a prescription
  • Over a third (34%) of women would like more information on how to access services remotely
  • Just over a quarter (26%) of women want more information about where they can access contraceptive services more generally
  • Just over a fifth (21%) of women wanted longer opening hours and a fifth (20%) thought more appointments would improve access to contraceptive services in their area

Part of a longer press release at https://www.mariestopes.org.uk/news/press-release-more-than-a-third-of-uk-women-unsure-how-to-access-contraception-during-covid-19/

October 6, 2020

Abuse and harassment driving girls off Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – Plan International

Largest ever global survey on online violence shows that one in five girls (19%) have left or significantly reduced use of a social media platform after being harassed, while another one in ten (12%) have changed the way they express themselves.

Girls and young women worldwide are demanding urgent action from social media companies after a landmark survey has revealed more than half (58%) have been harassed or abused online.

Attacks are most common on Facebook, where 39% say they have suffered harassment, but occur on every platform included in the global study including Instagram (23%), WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%) and TikTok (6%).

Our latest research is based on a survey of 14,000 girls aged 15-25 in 22 countries, including Brazil, Benin, the USA and India, and a series of in-depth interviews.

Girls receive explicit messages

The largest study of its kind, it found girls who use social media in high and low-income countries alike are routinely subjected to explicit messages, pornographic photos, cyberstalking and other distressing forms of abuse, and reporting tools are ineffective in stopping it.

Online violence has led to nearly one in five (19%) of those who have been harassed stopping or significantly reducing their use of the platform on which it happened, while another one in ten (12%) have changed the way they express themselves.

Abuse also damages girls’ lives offline, with one in five (22%) of those surveyed saying they or a friend have been left fearing for their physical safety, while 44% say social media companies need to do more to protect them.

Social media is a significant part of girls’ lives

The most common type of attack is abusive and insulting language, reported by 59% of girls who have been harassed, followed by purposeful embarrassment (41%), body shaming and threats of sexual violence (both 39%).

More than a third (37%) of girls who are from an ethnic minority and have suffered abuse say they are targeted because of their race or ethnicity, while more than half (56%) of those who identify as LGBTIQ+ say they are harassed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The report – titled Free to be online? Girls’ and young women’s experiences of online harassment – found that social media is a significant part of young people’s lives and is widely used for activism, entertainment, to learn and to keep in touch with friends and family.

Three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed say they post frequently or very frequently, while interviews suggest that COVID-19 has made being online even more important.

However, this leaves girls vulnerable to new forms of abuse, with 50% saying online harassment is more common than street harassment.

Girls are calling for action to end online abuse

The research was carried out as part of Girls Get Equal, Plan International’s global campaign for a world where girls and young women have the power to be leaders and shape the world around them.

As part of the campaign, girls around the world have written an open letter(*) to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter calling on them to create stronger and more effective ways to report abuse and harassment.

Plan International is also asking governments worldwide to implement specific laws to deal with online gender-based violence and ensure girls who suffer it have access to justice.

Part of a longer press release at https://plan-international.org/news/2020-10-05-abuse-and-harassment-driving-girls-facebook-instagram-and-twitter

(*) You can sign the open letter at https://plan-international.org/sign-the-letter

October 6, 2020