Fingers Crossed for an International Day of the Girl

Labour Party

I am one of 393 MEPs who signed the Written Declaration in support of an International Day of the Girl which gained parliamentary approval last week in Strasbourg.

I chose to sign this written declaration as I believe it is important that people are aware of the barriers that girls continue to face in society. The declaration was submitted by my colleague Edite Estrela (Portuguese member of the EP Socialist and Democrats group) who is a chair on the Women’s rights and Gender Equality Committee.

Around the world girls are disadvantaged in many ways in comparison to their male counterparts. This includes in access to education and healthcare and that they are more likely to be malnourished and they face a greater risk of being exposed to gender based violence.

Organisations including the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), Plan International and the European Parliamentary Forum (EPF) have worked together to campaign for greater awareness off the difficulties girls face for being girls during this international campaign.

By gaining the backing of over half the MEPs the European Parliament officially supports international calls to create an international day for a girl. The UN will decide today whether to act on this call during its General Assembly.

If the UN supports this request the 11 October will be recognised as the International Day of the Girl. The situation of girls around the world will be given a platform from which to raise global awareness.

There are already number of other UN recognised days such as World Aids Day and the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. These days act as an annual reminder of the barriers we need to remove to achieve a fairer and more equal world.

I Support Equal Love

Labour Party

I was pleased to hear that a motion to reintroduce the ban on civil partnerships in religious premises, put forward by Tory peer Baroness O’Cathain, was withdrawn yesterday.

The Baroness is known for trying to wreck the Labour Government’s Civil Partnership Bill in 2004. She and her supporters alleged that religious premises would be ‘compelled’ to register civil partnerships against their beliefs.

The law currently says that it is the decision of those in charge of religious premises whether or not to register their building as a place where civil partnerships may take place.

I believe that couples, no matter what their sexual orientation, race or religion should be allowed to celebrate their relationship in the way they choose.

Of course, whilst today was a success for equal rights, as the law stands neither homosexual or heterosexual couples are able to do this. Civil marriages remain open only to opposite sex couples and civil partnerships only to same sex.

This is why I support the Equal Love campaign along with my 12 fellow Labour MEPs.

The Equal Love campaign has been organised by LGBT organisation OutRage!. They argue that bans on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships are an unlawful and unjustified discrimination.

I agree with them, in a democracy gay and straight couples should be equal before the law.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Conservative and Liberal-Democrat politicians were quick to deflect attention from their controversial pension’s plans last week by goading all those public sector workers. Ministers couldn’t act quickly enough to condemn those who plan to strike for the inevitable disruption it will cause.

It will be an autumn of discontent, and this is largely because the government has announced the cuts to public services pensions before completing its discussions with unions. therefore forcing them into action.

Last week Danny Alexander said the plan was to protect public sector workers for the long term. In a speech in London he said the proposals were “not an assault” on pensions and accused some unions of spreading “scare stories” about government plans.

He said a small group of unions were “hell bent on premature strike action”. I find this line deeply inflammatory and I’m certain that it will only serve to fan the flames of the already angry unions who rightly feel they are still in the middle of negotiations. You can read more on last week’s story here.

I blogged on the interview Harriet Harman gave in last week’s Guardian in which she highlighted how poorly the Tories are on the equality agenda, something which she has fought so hard to achieve but for which she gets little recognition. She said in the interview “You can’t leave equality to the Tories”, it’s a brilliant quote which frankly sums it all up. Harriet, as ever, remains true to her mission to boost women’s rights. You can read the full interview here, and more on my earlier blog here.

Despite her efforts, internationally we have some way to go. Targeted violence against female public officials, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, according to a global survey released on Wednesday.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan, India and Somalia feature in descending order after Afghanistan in the list of the five worst states, the poll among gender experts shows.

The disappointing survey has been compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of a website, TrustLaw Woman, aimed at providing free legal advice for women’s groups around the world. You can read the full report and findings here.

Sign the Petition for Equal Representation of Women in TV drama

Labour Party

Following on from the recent event in the European Parliament on the representation of women in TV and film, the Vice-President of Equity UK, Jean Rogers, has sent me an online petition which I would urge all of you to sign.  You will be in good company as it has already been signed by Julie Walters, Phil Davis, David Soul, and Helen Mirren, amongst others, and  has around 7,000 signatories in total. 

The petition is addressed to the major UK television channels, including the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, and calls on them to take measures to redress the gender imbalance on UK screens.  Currently, although half the TV-watching public is female, only 36.5% of characters in TV drama are female.  What’s more, while men over the age of 45 are frequently seen in leading roles, women of a similar age often seem to disappear off the screen.

Please would you follow the link here and let the TV companies know that very many of us want  equal representation of women on TV.