Equal Rights, feminist, London, prostitution, Sex Trade, Sexual Equality, Trade Unions, Women MPs, Women's Rights

I was delighted to be invited to speak, on work undertaken in the EU on prostitution, at the launch of OBJECT and eaves’ new DEMAND CHANGE! campaign in Parliament yesterday afternoon.

Two powerful and inspiring organisations, OBJECT, is a campaigning organisation which is fundamentally against the objectification of women. And eaves is a London based feminist charity that provides supported housing to vulnerable women, women trafficked into prostitution, and those who have experienced domestic violence.

The new joint initiative between eaves and OBJECT – DEMAND CHANGE! – aims to promote an increased understanding of the myths and realities surrounding prostitution; calls for prostitution to be seen and widely understood as a form of violence against women; and is lobbying for the adoption of the ‘Nordic model’ of tackling demand and decriminalising women in prostitution.

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

As an ardent supporter of the Nordic model, of tackling trafficking and violence against women through prostitution by criminalising the purchase of sex, I wholly support the DEMAND CHANGE! campaign and its aims. I believe campaigns such as these are key to changing the public perceptions and entrenched cultural attitudes towards the sale of women’s bodies for sex, which is  is the only route towards the UK adopting the Nordic model to reduce this intolerable violence against women, children and men.

This event was a great opportunity to take back the battle ground on prostitution from the garish vocalists for pimps and punters The English Collection of Prostitutes and the International Union of Sex Workers. Who interestingly, now that legislation on lap-dancing clubs and prostitution have now passed out of the Commons, were not present at the event. A key indication of the sorts of people that are behind these frighteningly naive organisations, which deny figures on trafficking and offer up prostitution as a feminist choice when the clear reality is that no one would ever wish this destructive and demeaning career  on anyone whom they cared about.

In my speech I discussed the European Parliament’s women’s committee’s inability to agree on the issue of prostitution due to the very varied legislation of each member state. As heated debate on the topic of the health of prostitutes, in the socialist group of the FEMM committee, showed last year, prostitution remains the last great feminist taboo.

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg


Ministry of Defence, Sexual Equality, sexual harrassment

The MOD have put filters on the Page 3 section of The Sun’s website. The Sun are livid as you can imagine and have already sent their Page 3 hotties down to Whitehall to protest.


Please drop them a note to commend them for this decision. Even a one-liner of thanks will show your support for this action and counter the protest The Sun are making.

MOD Ministerial Correspondence Unit
5th Floor, Zone A
Main Building
Whitehall, London

Technically, if the web content is not suitable, then neither are hard copies. The MOD may have started something here, setting an example of challenging the widespread use of porn within the armed forces, by challenging sexism and sexual harassment of their female service personnel.


Sexual Equality, Tory Boy, Women MPs, Women's Rights, workers' rights

How David Cameron’s conference stage has become a women-free zone

Cameron's sea of black suited males

Cameron's sea of black suited males

A frightening glimpse of what could be….The Times front page story today shamed the Tories for their serious downgrading of women within the party. Cameron has not included a single woman in his testosterone fuelled team to fight Labour over the economy.

This comes as no suprise to me – I have long criticised the Tories for their frightening lack of female representation in the European Parliament: just one woman MEP out of a team of 27. None of which think that attending  the European parliamentary committee for gender and sexual equality is worth their effort. Despite the serious reports on trafficking, violence against women and legislation on maternity leave that come out of there. This shows the reality of where Tory priorities lie.

David Cameron lying back in 2006 that he was going to do more to promote women in the party...

David Cameron lying back in 2006 that he was going to do more to promote women in the party...three years on and just four members of his shadow cabinet are women

Now the Times are picking up on this frightening phenomenon, their leader this morning says that “…the lack of female Tory MPs puts a question mark against the party”. Too right it does. The reality is there for all to see – behind the shiny facade of Cameron is a party that completly unrepresentative of the UK in terms of class, ethnicity and gender. Nothing has changed and despite PR photo shoots and false promises to the contrary nothing ever will.


America, Barack Obama, Sexual Equality

Well, who could fail to be inspired. The hope (to use Obama’s own word) and excitement reminded me of May 2 1997. I was one of the many lining Whitehall that balmy summer’s morning cheering our new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, being completely carried away by the optimism he was bringing to Britain. It was, indeed, a glorious day, just as it was yesterday.

I have two dreams of my own:

Obama’s statement in his inaugural address that “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers” bodes well for those of us who are humanists and secularists. While it may not be a massive move away from faith (and Obama is himself is a committed Christian), it did at least put down a marker that the 44th President may be moving away from the religiosity of the Bush years. I can only hope that freethinking, ie not possessing a religion, will again become acceptable in America. My dream will be well on the way if we see non-believer candidates for the 2012 presidential contest.

Obama has shown some willingness to carry forward the equalities agenda. Yet it is not enough for him to quote his personal experience as “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant (who) can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath” and leave it at that. He must deliver on equalities. I was pleased to see three women among the 14 names so far announced for his Cabinet. Yet appointing Janet Napolitano, Susan Rice and Lisa Jackson is not enough. I want a complete change in attitude to abortion in America and equal pay across the United States, and that’s just for starters.


ryanair, Sexual Equality
Last year Ryanair were reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority for using sexually provocative photos of women dressed up as school girls along with the headline “Hottest Back to School Fares”.

Last night I received an email from Ryanair advertising their latest sale and 2009 calendar of scantily clad staff who “bare all”.

Do you think this is an acceptable way to portray your female cabin crew? Why not take part in the poll I’ve added to this blog?


equality, Sexual Equality

You might be interested in this article on the BBC News website about closing the gender gap. The Nordic countries come out well in terms of equality, as does New Zealand.


Body Image, Gender, Sexual Equality

A report on how marketing and advertising affect equality between women and men has just been passed by the European Parliament Women’ Rights Committee.

It is an important document, highlighting how advertising fuels and highlights inequalities based on gender. Since advertising is designed to influence us, its impact on sexual equality cannot be underestimated. The report drew heavily on research conducted in Germany by the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Ministry of Labour in Poland. which showed that gender stereotypes consolidate narrow gender roles, thus restricting life opportunities.

I put down amendments to the report on body image, drawing attention to a publication by the British Medical Association entitled “Eating Disorders, Body Image and the Media” which states that media portrayals of the ideal body image can adversely affect the self esteem of women, particularly teenagers and those susceptible to eating disorders. One of my amendments called on advertisers to consider their use of extremely thin women more carefully while another pointed out that advertising could be a strong tool in challenging and tackling stereotypes.

I also submitted an amendment expressing extreme concern at the advertising of sexual services in local newspapers and other publications, something I know Harriet Harman, Barbara Follett, Fiona Mactaggart and other sisters in the House of Commons are taking up.

All my amendments were passed by the Women’s Committee and will now be voted on by the whole European Parliament.