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Today the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published a follow up report to it’s investigation into Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in 2018.

This report will go on to form the formal submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee).

The basis for this report is examining how the EHRC believes that the UK and Welsh Governments could improve their implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The U.K Government ratified CEDAW in 1986. Furthermore the UK ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in 1976, article 3 of which states that “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the present Covenant.

“‘The recommendations in this report are intended to improve the lives of women and girls across Britain and protect their fundamental rights. We cannot afford to be complacent in our efforts to ensure that women and girls enjoy their right to feel safe and empowered in their everyday lives.’ Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC Chief Executive

Socio-economic Duty

One of the key findings is that the EHRC is concerned that there is a lack of a ‘joined-up approach to the UK’s various Human Rights commitments’ including CEDAW and furthermore urges the Government to reinstate all original, and commence any outstanding, provisions of the Equality Act 2010, including the socio-economic duty and dual discrimination provision, and introduce new measures to address gaps in protection.

The socio-economic duty would require public bodies to consider how their decisions and actions could exacerbate or reduce inequality. However, successive governments have failed to bring it to life.

We need to change that.

The socio-economic duty would help to shield the most vulnerable and level the playing field between people from different socio-economic backgrounds. #1ForEquality is a joint Just Fair and Equality Trust campaign, supported by more than 70 other organisations. You can take action now by contacting your MP and asking them to sign up to support EDM 591.

Cumulative impact of austerity measures on women

Highlights from our submission to the Work and Pensions Committee on the Welfare Safety Net, supported by 15 local and national groups working on fair taxation, community engagement, workers’ rights, child poverty, equality and food security highlighted some of the ways that recent tax and welfare reforms have disproportionately affected women and girls:

  • At this pace, in four years from now 1.5 million more children will live in poverty. 
  • The child poverty rate for lone parent households, of which 90% are women will increase from 37 to 62%
  • Households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child will lose 13% of their income. 
  • Lone mothers will lose almost one fifth of their annual income.
  • Black employed women are set to lose the most, around £1,500 per year by April 2021. In relative terms this amounts to 28% of the net individual income of those not in employment and 20% of those in employment.

UN findings

In its Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights raised concerns about the ‘persistent underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions in the public and private sectors”, and also highlighted that there is more work that needs to be done to close the significant gender pay gap that exists.

In November of 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Phillip Alston came to the UK on an official visit. Whilst he was here he attended a number of events with grassroots organisations, including a testimonial gathering event in Newham co-organised by Just Fair and Community Links.

UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in Newham, East London: Open mic event from Just Fair on Vimeo.

Testimonials such as the ones he heard in Newham led the Special Rapporteur to conclude that:

“If you got a group of misogynists in a room and said,‘how can we make this system work for men and not for women?’ they would not have come up with too many ideas that are not already in place”.

Philip Alston also raised a number of other issues in his preliminary report that have disproportionately affected women.

For example “women born in the 1950s have been particularly impacted by an abrupt and poorly phased in change in the state pension age from 60 to 66. The impact of the changes to pensionable age is such as to severely penalize those who happen to be on the cusp of retirement and who had wellfounded expectations of entering the next phase of their lives, rather than being plunged back into a workforce for which many of them were ill-prepared and to which they could not reasonably have been expected to adjust with no notice”.