In a few words ….
Elizabeth Debold argues that it is up to women to make a difference, and that we must ‘shape our future’ otherwise we will ‘recreate the past’.
Let us hope that those women with the power to effect change will heed this simple warning.
Women in law and the boardroom
It has been suggested that increasing the role of politicians within the selection process of the judiciary could increase diversity. However, Lord Hart indicates that the problem does not lie with the appointments process, but the pool from which roles are allocated; “[t]he pool has not widened in a significant way, partly because of the difficulty of persuading solicitors to come forward for judicial appointment”.
While Norway’s biggest human disaster in decades has dominated headlines for the fortnight, the country has also been in the news for more positive reasons. Research has shown that Norway’s quota of 40% women on corporate boards has had a positive effect on corporate equality; the figure has risen from 3% in 1993 to 43% currently. However, these reports have also raised debate over whether such quotas are a move towards genuine equality.
On home turf, after criticism from the government, the British business industry is also aiming to ensure greater representation of women in important roles at the top of companies. This push towards greater equality in all fields is one which women across the UK are likely to welcome, especially as it is long overdue.
Reproduction and parenthood
New research has raised concerns over women’s future access to terminations, after a survey of medical students showed that many trainee doctors would object to providing a woman with a termination, even where potentially traumatic circumstances surrounded the pregnancy. Check out the figures here.
In a long overdue move from the US administration, President Obama has announced the certification of December’s repeal of the famously controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which prevents openly gay people from serving in the American military. Hopefully this historic move against homophobia in the military will be matched by more progressive attitudes in practice.
Last month, the Julian Assange extradition hearing raised the consent question. Allegations that the WikiLeaks founder Assange sexually assaulted women who did not actively reject him, but who remained silent as a result of fear, have been highlighted as part of the hearing. Clare Montgomery QC, appearing for the Swedish prosecution authority, argued the complaints demonstrate a lack of consent, but Assange’s counsel, Ben Emmerson QC, said the conduct described indicates that the complainant’s consented to sexual activity with Assange. Though the hearing does not require an assessment of the merits of the case, an assessment of whether the case constitutes a crime is required. The coverage in the Guardian was of a good depth and perhaps the most worthy of a glance.
Recent figures published by the Home Office indicate that a law introduced in an attempt to tackle human trafficking has not been as successful as hoped. The law, found under s53A of the Sexual Offences Act, was an attempt to reduce human trafficking for purpose of prostitution. The law allows the police to prosecute men who have used prostitutes, even if they had no knowledge that they came into the profession through trafficking. However, as there have been only 43 convictions in its first year of enforcement, the effectiveness of the law in practice has been questioned.
Following the murder of Clare Wood, ‘Clare’s Law’ was developed, modelled on ‘Sarah’s Law’. The idea being that women would have the opportunity to unearth any information about a new partner’s violent history, before it was too late. But while the idea has much popular support, serious doubts over its realistic ability to protect women have been raised. Libby Brooks has raised valid concerns about the potential success of such a scheme, which concerns a crime exacerbated by the victim’s mindset, when balanced with the potential misuse of information.
The growth of the controversial Obedient Wives Club, a women’s group which blames various social and domestic evils on a Muslim wife’s inability to sexually satisfy her husband, has met with strong objections from both Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike in south-east Asia, particularly in Singapore. Perhaps this fresh outrage against this misogynistic and vastly out-dated ethos will be an alarm-bell for the club’s 1000+ members worldwide.
Female Genital Mutilation
Ministers have sent prosecutors new, more aggressive guidelines on tackling female genital mutilation, advising them to target more rigorously families that take young relatives abroad to parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa to undergo this violent and potentially debilitating procedure. In spite of 2003’s tough legislation, there has yet to be a single successful conviction for the offence. Avon & Somerset Det Ch Insp Dave McCallum has spoken in support of this new approach, and reported that rising protest against the practice from within Bristol’s large Somali community has not been matched by prosecutions, and that male community leaders should break their silence on the issue. This perhaps highlights that in order to alter such misogynistic cultural practices, legislation must be partnered with both action and education.
On a lighter note …
The Paws with Pride dog show, run as part of the Northern Pride event, has been a success for the second year running. The organiser of the light-hearted event said, “Love and enthusiasm for animals isn’t determined by someone’s sexual orientation”.
Coors, a beer brand whose advertising has traditionally been aimed at men, has made a misguided attempt to target female drinkers by launching a pink beer. Reactions from both feminist and corporate bloggers suggest that this is hardly the stroke of marketing genius Coors were aiming at.