Stay or leave, WE need to protect women's rights

Stay or leave, WE need to protect women's rights

WE need to enshrine and extend women’s equality in the UK in case of Brexit and to increase the European Union’s ambition for women if the UK retains its membership

“Stay or leave, the interests of half the population are under represented,” said Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer. “We need not only to ensure that the equalities guaranteed by European directives cannot be rolled back but that such rights and protections are extended, to the benefit of everybody.”

The Women’s Equality Party will not press members to vote to stay in or to leave. “WE are non-partisan,” said Mayer, “but that does not mean we will stand back from this debate. The outcome will be crucial for women. In many respects, gender equality is a European achievement – great strides have been made in areas such as maternity leave, equal pay, discrimination and harassment, even if the motor for change has not always been a yen for social justice but sometimes just a desire by member nations to prevent underpaid female workers in one country undercutting the labour market in another.

“WE also acknowledge that there are limitations to EU policies, for example in the limited protections offered to non-working or part-time, flexibly employed women. There is too little understanding of the rights and protections created by existing EU and international frameworks such as CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, and WE must ensure these rights and protections remain in the UK and are properly enforced regardless of June’s referendum result.”

Historically, the drive for gender equality in Europe was economically-based, with Europe-wide directives on equal pay and maternity rights implemented in order that no single nation could benefit from cheap female labour or opening up posts held by women on maternity leave to those who needed work.

“We know today that the basis of such legislation was misguided, and that in fact gender equality is a huge economic driver,” Mayer said. “If gender segregation of jobs was reduced and women’s employment increased, we could add an extra £23 billion to the UK economy alone.”

“Whether or not the UK remains in the EU, we want to ensure women’s full economic participation, as well as their protection as citizens.”

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Published March 08, 2016