As reported in our inaugural edition, the debate over Legal Aid reforms continues. The Justice Select Committee (“JSC”) has published its report on the proposed changes, in which it has urged ministers to reconsider plans to focus legal aid on family law cases, including those involving accusations of domestic violence and abuse. The JSC is concerned that such changes may create a “perverse incentive” for people to make false accusations. The need for considerable further refinement is stated in the report and the JSC has suggested that alternative savings can be made. The report has been made available online.
Hadley Freeman has published a powerful commentary following the conviction of Delroy Grant. During the Grant case, the British press made statements about the desirability of Grant’s victims, speculating that anyone wanting to have sex with these elderly people was a marvel in itself. The point is this: the belief that the victim must in some way be desirable peddles the blame that falls at the victim’s feet, even in cases such as this; and eschews the fact that this is not about sexual attraction but abuse of power. The press has done much to skew sentiment in rape trials and misconceived perceptions of the dynamics between Grant and his victims in this case serve to further inform the debate on rape law reform. If the crime itself is so poorly understood that vulnerable elderly victims can be pegged as somehow to blame, then more must be done to curtail this erroneous value system, or else what reform could possibly help the young single female’s chances of achieving justice? It would seem a hopeless case.
Reforms of the EHRC
Theresa May launched a public consultation on the government’s plans to reform the EHRC. Amendments to the Equality Act 2006 have been proposed that would clarify the core functions of the Commission. Activities such as running camps for young people in order to promote understanding of the importance of equality and diversity have been hinted to be most vulnerable. The question must be this: When the values engrained in generations to date have led uninformed decisions of how the law should serve certain sections of society, if we fail to ensure that forthcoming generations are properly informed, how can we expect equality to remain a priority in the future?
NHS funding and HIV
With cuts everywhere, HIV prevention groups could not have escaped them for long. These prevention groups in London have been informed that their NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) budgets will be slashed by 43% from the 1st of April and that the remaining PCTs willing to continue can only offer shorter contracts. Given that recent statistics show a 70% increase in gay and bisexual HIV diagnoses in the last decade, the cuts are particularly ill-timed and worrisome. Reaction has not been mild to the cuts. The prevention groups point out that such cuts could lead to more HIV infections and Diane Abbott, the shadow health minister, argued that these measures would marginalise the gay and bisexual community.
Employment and Parenthood
More difficulties loom ahead for women if the employment law changes planned are concretised. While business would prosper through a freezing of new regulations for small companies, some of the decisions would not be beneficial to women and they could find themselves more affected than other individuals. Amongst the changes would be the refusal to allow the employees of smaller companies the right to request time off to train. Given that work and parenthood can eat up all the free time of an individual, this decision would put thorns in the plans of those wishing to improve their work prospects. Even more drastic is the consultation on the removal of protection against third party harassment. The removal of such protection would overlook employees interacting with customers and business partners and that the concerned third party harassment would occur within the course of the employment. If we want women to have better work experiences and a greater female representation in the work place, it seems obvious not to make them choose between success at work and their families.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
This week, The Guardian reported that the only post in the government tackling the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) has been removed. The importance of this move is strongly felt as it is revealed to the public that there was only ever one post to handle an issue which affects thousands of girls. In addition, a contradiction arises as a month ago the government had laid out new guidelines to help the identification and prevention of FGM. The post will be fragmented between the Departments of Health and Education and the Foreign Office but charities insist that a single person handling the functions would be more efficient in ensuring the implementation of the guidelines. This proves again the importance of moving beyond mere words to real actions.
More from afar…
The US (in fact, the whole business world) is gripped by a pivotal sex discrimination case which has reached the supreme court and could change the face of employment and discrimination laws. The complaint had been initially brought up by six women against Wal-Mart 11 years ago on the basis that they were not paid the same as the men and were ignored for promotion. However, the distinctive factor in this case is that the plaintiffs want to bring in a class action which would cover all the women who have worked for Wal-Mart since December 2008 and the US Supreme Court has to decide whether they can actually bring in a class action. If such an action is allowed then the importance of a class action win for the plaintiffs would be felt in the colossal compensations which Wal-Mart could end up paying. In addition, it would open the gates to further similar actions. If there can be no class action then it becomes more difficult for female employees to bring individual cases.
More news has been received on the anti-homosexuality Ugandan bill. Pink News writes that new reports disclose the bill has been dropped by the government. Sadly, the demise of this bill does not signal improvents in the treatment of the gay and lesbian community as it appears that the government has preferred to cover the bill through existing legislation.