EVAW reveals – main political parties’ sexual harassment policies ‘hopelessly inadequate’

‘Parties should be aiming for a Gold Standard,’ say women’s groups citing Rennard scandal & other allegations of sexual harassment in Westminster

With European and local elections just days away and thousands of local political party activists making last minute appeals to voters, the End Violence Against Women Coalition today (20 May) published a legal analysis (1) of the three main political parties’ policies on sexual harassment which finds them “hopelessly inadequate”.

The national coalition of women’s organisations requested the policies be disclosed by each party leader when the Liberal Democrats failed to act decisively on the Lord Rennard ‘scandal’ in January this year (2).

A leading equality lawyer has reviewed the responses sent by Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Grant Schapps to the EVAW Coalition and says that as a set the policies are “hopelessly inadequate” and “demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of what the law requires.”

Cover letters and attached party policies in the main:

  • Appear not to appreciate that the sexual harassment of party staff or members is unlawful
  • Do not state that a person making an allegation will be protected from ‘victimisation’, that is, incurring further discrimination as a result of making an allegation, as the law also requires
  • Currently have poor procedures for making an allegation, or have not disclosed these.

The Conservative Party’s ‘Respect’ policy for MPs and their members worryingly opens with the statement that MPs “have the right to expect to carry out their parliamentary business free from unfounded allegations of discrimination, harassment or bullying”.

The Lib Dems will not implement new policy and codes of conduct until the end of 2014.

The Labour Party have disclosed policy for party staff only. It disclosed only a description of what it considers to be harassment and no details of procedures for how it should be dealt with. The party says it is following up recent recommendations on how better to publicise its procedures within the party.

Karon Monaghan QC who wrote the legal analysis said:

“None of the main political parties appear to understand that they are subject to the law against sexual harassment in their dealings with party members. The Equality Act 2010 makes clear that it is unlawful to subject members of a political party to sexual harassment.

“None of the documents produced by the party leaders evidence any understanding of the legal position. Even their policies addressing the harassment of staff indicate a lack of understanding of the legal position. The main political parties simply do not seem to understand their legal obligations and equally importantly what constitutes best practice.”

EVAW Coalition Director Holly Dustin said:

“We are publishing the three main political parties’ disclosed policies on harassment as thousands of party members and workers are working intensively on Euro and local elections campaigns, and as all are beginning their 2015 general election campaign at the grassroots level.

“We are disappointed that these policies are not better. Indeed, we believe that the parties should be aiming for a gold standard when it comes to issues of sexual harassment. How can voters have confidence in their public policies on violence against women if their internal policies are not up to scratch?

“Women’s representation in British politics is still woefully inadequate and the political parties need to seriously think about whether they are welcoming places where women will be treated equally to their male colleagues.

“We are calling on all political parties to work with expert discrimination lawyers to ensure that their policies on sexual harassment set a high standard for others to follow, and that they are implemented properly.  We are also calling on the parties to work with women’s groups to make concrete manifesto commitments on violence against women and girls and other equality issues. In the wake of recent scandals about sexual harassment and sleaze at Westminster and in other parts of public life, this is the very least that voters deserve.”

The EVAW Coalition’s request to party leaders for disclosure of their policies is here, and Karon Monaghan QC’s legal analysis here, and the political parties’ responses:

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Notes

  1. The full legal analysis and the political parties’ letters to EVAW and policies are available to download at www.evaw.org.uk/news
  2. In January the Liberal Democrats’ internal party inquiry into Lord Rennard’s sexual harassment of women party activists failed to produce decisive results despite finding the allegations credible; the women involved in the case were disappointed. EVAW’s response is here.
  3. The policies requested and disclosed do not refer to MPs’ staff. These workers are employed directly by MPs in a manner similar to a small, private employer. Employment and equality law still apply absolutely to the terms and conditions of these people’s employment.

Press Release at http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/news/150/evaw-reveals-main-political-parties-sexual-harassment-policies-hopelessly-inadequate

May 21, 2014

28 May 2014 ~ Introduction to Counselling for Refugee Women – Women and Girls Network – London

Places have become available for the second Introduction to Counselling for Refugee Women training course (which is part of the Women and Girls Network’s IPAMO: Honouring Resilience Restoring Lives project) and, as a result, the deadline for applications has now been extended to Wednesday 28th May 2014.  Interviews will be held on Friday 30th May (and, possibly, Monday 2nd June). The course will run between June-July 2014.

The project is for refugee women who want to develop understanding and practise in counselling and is part of the Women and Girls Network’s (WGN) specialist training provision. It builds upon the successes of our previously provided Refugee Women’s Project and has been developed in consultation with refugee women.

IPAMO is an innovative training package that has been designed to facilitate the support and professional development of refugee women and to enhance their ability to provide counselling and support to other women with a shared experience. No prior knowledge of counselling is required.

The project comprises of 2 free accredited courses: an Introduction to Counselling for Refugee Women, and an, Advanced Course in Counselling and Supporting Refugee Women. Participants who successfully complete the introductory course can apply to take part in the advanced course. The advanced course will run between September 2014-March 2015. Both courses include support to encourage successful participation and completion.

For further information about the project (including details of how to apply) please visit www.wgn.org.uk/training

May 13, 2014

3 June 2014 ~ Raising Women’s Voices: Social Media, Campaigning & Influencing Training (Beginners Level) – WRC + 26 June & 17 July 2014

This one-day beginners level Campaigns and Social Media training is tailored to women’s organisations and projects with no or limited working knowledge of policy, campaigning and social media (such as Twitter and Facebook) and who want to understand the basics. You don’t need any previous knowledge of campaigning or social media to come to this training.

The training is divided into two sessions. The first one starts at 10am and finishes at 1pm, and the second session begins after lunch at 1.45pm and finishes at ca. 4.45pm. This training takes place at the WRC office in North London.

Morning session (10am – 1pm)

This section covers the basics of campaigning and influencing, and is delivered by WRC’s Policy and Influencing Officer.

  • What is a campaign?
  • Key stages of campaigning:
  • Building a strategy
  • Analysing the issue and context
  • Involving the right people
  • Routes to influence
  • Tactics and tools
  • Communication

Afternoon session (1.45pm – 4.45pm)

The afternoon session will be an introduction to social media. If you know nothing, or almost nothing, about social media then it will be a great way to familiarise yourself with the main platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. The training will comprise:

  • What is Facebook?
    • Setting up a personal profile
    • Setting up a profile for your organisation
    • How to use Facebook
  • What is Twitter?
    • Setting up a profile
    • How to use Twitter
  • What about others? A brief introduction to:
    • Linked In
    • Instagram
    • Pinterest
    • WordPress and Tumblr

We want to stress that you should come on this course if you have little or no familiarity with social media. If you already have a Facebook or Twitter account you may already be too advanced!

Dates & Registration

Please click on the date you would like to attend and follow the instructions to register your place.

Training Fee

We are offering this training course for FREE for WRC members. For non-WRC members, the following fees apply: >

    Full day: £50
    Half day: £25

If you would like to know more about WRC membership and how to join, please visit our membership page here.

If you know you have been a WRC member before but are not sure about your current membership status, please contact Suvi via email or call the WRC office on 0207 697 3450.

May 13, 2014

Not Happily Ever After – National Helplines for domestic and sexual abuse in Ireland joint campaign

On Thursday 8th May 2014, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Women’s Aid launched the brand new ‘Not happily ever after’ national public awareness campaign, highlighting the crime of sexual violence within relationships, reported by 6% of women (91,000 women) in Ireland in a recent survey.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid said: “Recent EU-wide research shows that under-reporting of sexual violence in relationships is significant, with respondents in Ireland reporting particularly low levels of help-seeking. The extent to which women recognise that rape by an intimate partner is a crime is one factor in reporting. So we’ve launched this campaign to help women overcome the shame and fear associated with this crime, and to highlight the support that is available.”

Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, CEO of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said:

“The campaign plays on the fairy-tale notion of ‘happily-ever-after’ to call attention to sexual violence within relationships, questioning the common misconception that sexual violence is mainly perpetrated by strangers. In reality, women are at risk of sexual violence from their partners, exes or someone they know. Almost one quarter of perpetrators of sexual violence against adult women in Ireland are intimate partners or exes. Yet there has only been one marital rape conviction in nearly a quarter century since the law has been on the statute books.”

Ms O’Malley Dunlop continued:

“Both physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences are common and reflect the repeat victimisation in relationships where there is sexual violence, coercion and control. Over half of women raped by their partner experienced more than one incident of sexual violence and one third of victims experienced 6 or more incidents of rape by their current partner. Despite these consequences, for a quarter of victims, feeling ashamed or embarrassed about what had happened stopped them from reporting the crime or seeking help. This campaign aims to challenge the culture of victim blaming that leaves women silenced and ashamed, while violent perpetrators remain outside the criminal justice system.”

Ms. Martin concluded:

“The Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre National 24 Hour Helpline understand how difficult it is for women experiencing sexual coercion or rape at the hands of their partner to talk about what is happening. All too often, women feel alone and isolated, unaware that help is available or unable to make sense of what is being done to them. We hope this campaign will encourage women to pick up the phone and speak to someone they can trust, who will understand and support them, in complete confidence. Women’s Aid and Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have long worked together to support women through sexual violence and will continue to cooperate to address this crime.”

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Women’s Aid run two key national Helplines providing support on sexual violence and are coming together on an unprecedented scale to raise awareness of this issue with this brand new campaign.

The ‘Not happily ever after’ campaign will run through to June 2nd. The campaign includes national outdoor, radio, and digital advertising, and is funded by Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

Part of a longer press release at http://www.womensaid.ie/newsevents/news/2014/05/08/not-happily-ever-after-national-helpline-agencies/

May 13, 2014

Two out of five mayoral contests have no women standing – Centre for Women & Democracy

Ballot papers in mayoral elections in Tower Hamlets and Lewisham on 22 May will have no women on them, and the overall percentage of women candidates for the five mayoral contests is just 18%.

Only in Watford, where two of the four candidates is female, is there partity.

The full picture is included in CFWD’s 2014 Local Elections Briefing, which is published today.

The Briefing also includes information about the local elections, although details about the gender breakdown of candidates in the large number of local elections being held in May will not be available until later in the summer, when CFWD will be publishing a major report on women and local government.

Women currently consitute just over 30% of local councillors; this level has been static for over a decade. Despite attempts by both political parties and local authorities to increase the numbers of women candidates there has been very little progress, and the face of local political office – whether as councillor or mayor – remains predominatly male.

Lask of available data (caused by the absence of proper monitoring procedures) makes it impossible to produce accurate figures for candidates from other under-represented groups, but it is probable that, overall, there is a relatively low level of diversity in any sense amongst either male or female candidates.

CFWD will also be publishing a report on the local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland.

You can download the full Briefing here.

Check http://www.cfwd.org.uk/news/86/61/Two-out-of-five-mayoral-contests-have-no-women-standing

See also Women set to do well in European Elections – Centre for Women & Democracy

May 13, 2014