Honeyball’s New Year Round Up

Labour Party

Welcome back and happy New Year to you all. Having a little break gave me some time to reflect on the news, both the headlines and those stories that get buried for one reason and another.

As the Christmas hype kicked in, a clever campaign launched in an effort to get children’s toy shops to drop its sexist promotion of kids toys.

One of the culprits, the world famous Toy store Hamleys, righted its wrong before Christmas amid headline grabbing news.  The campaign which was led by Dr Laura Nelson took umbrage at the toy store which had divided children’s toys into those suitable for boys and those for girls.

The problem was less about the colour of the toys, rather the way in which they had been segregated. For example, the complaint found that girls’ toys were orientated towards domestic, caring and beauty activities”, the boys’ was “geared to action and war, with little scope for creativity”.

Although I was of course pleased that Hamley’s acknowledged its mistake, I am disappointed that still in 2012 gender roles are delineated so early in a child’s life and in such an overtly sexist way.

You can read a report on the story here.

And if gender stereo types in children’s shops didn’t infuriate us enough, our Christmas bodies were also threatened with humiliation with unrealistic advertising campaigns. In fact they were so unrealistic some were attacked for not being real. I know it hardly seems possible does it?

The ladies fashion store, H&M was accused of using computer generated mannequin bodies with real women’s heads plonked on top. It all looks impossibly perfect, and totally unrealistic and it only becomes clear that these images have been computer generated and when you line up images side by side and notice that they are in fact, one-and-the-same.

This is wholly irresponsible, particularly considering its clothes are aimed at young women and late teens. Jane Martinson’s blog for the Guardian was one of the few pieces I saw on this. As Martinson’s blog points out, this kind of advertising only exposes the constructed nature of beauty, feminism and health.

It is articles like Kate Allen’s in last month’s Guardian that I don’t often get a chance to read carefully adn reflect on. But I’m pleased I did. Her feature charted how women have been one of the worst groups to be hit by the recession. And it’s easy to forget that many mothers out of work have left a skilled job, which not any Tom Dick, Harry or (Henrietta) can fill.

The case studies Allen uses show what a desperate situation many women are in. There are 1.09 million women unemployed in the UK, it’s also worth remembering that this figure is rising since the height of the recession bit and is at the highest point for more than 20 years.

Groups like the Fawcett Society remain an important institution in highlighting the “triple jeopardy” women face as a direct result of the austerity cuts. As Allen’s article indicates  triple jeopardy doesn’t just refer to the cuts to jobs women must contend with but ‘cuts to services and benefits, which women generally use more, and being left to “fill the gaps” that services and benefits no longer reach, such as caring for older people.’ You can read the article in full here.

I hope this year brings a boost of confidence to the millions of women seeking work.

And I, of course, will continue the battle against human trafficking especially for the purposes of sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.

Towards the end of last year I was angered to learn that trafficked people are being treated as criminals in this country an inquiry led by Lady Helena Kennedy QC.

The inquiry calls on the government to introduce legislation and criminal justice policies which will tackle trafficking as a specific crime and support its victims.

It found the victims of human trafficking, including women forced into the sex industry or trapped as unpaid domestic servants, are being unfairly treated as criminals and illegal immigrants, an inquiry has found.

The investigation by Lady Helena Kennedy QC concluded that ‘the police and immigration authorities fail to see the thousands of women, men and children trafficked into Britain as the innocent victims of organised crime whose own basic rights have been breached.’

Although the report was for the Scottish office of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, it called on both the UK and Scottish governments to introduce legislation to tackle the issue and crucially to support its victims.

We know enough about this crime to know how afraid people are in coming forward, if they feel they will not be supported or worse still feel vilified then this hidden crime will be even harder to tackle.

We must continue to fight the perpetrators and support in the strongest way possible the victims. You can read the article here.

I hope this year sees a shift in many areas, for women, for victims of violence, and we must remember that there is also much to celebrate – The Olympics is on its way to London in exactly 200 days.