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International Women’S Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:04 pm on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:04 pm, 2nd March 2017

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the amazing achievements of women around the world. I therefore want to begin by marking some of the great accomplishments of women from my constituency of Ogmore. Norah Isaac, who was born in Caerau, was one of the greatest 20th-century Welsh authors and a passionate advocate of the Welsh language. Norah’s accolades include being the first woman ever to be a head teacher of a Welsh medium school, and later, at Trinity College in Carmarthen, establishing the first ever Welsh drama department. Sian Lloyd, from Maesteg, is one the UK’s longest serving weather forecasters, after spending 24 years at ITV Weather. Aside from her meteorology work, Sian is also known for her charitable efforts, including her support for the Prince’s Trust.

The achievements of women have built our world to what it is today, but unfortunately so many women are supressed and limited by a world that still favours men. I want to encourage each and every male Member of Parliament to use the platform that we have been given to highlight that injustice. It is our duty in Parliament to highlight injustices, and one of the greatest in justice that remains in the world today is the barriers preventing women from succeeding.

The situation for women in the UK should embarrass us all. In the workplace, according to the Opportunity Now campaign, for every £1 a man earns, a woman earns 81p. One in 10 women have experienced sexual harassment at work, and over half of tribunals involve some form of sex discrimination against women. There are unfair pressures on women that men simply do not face in day-to-day life. For example, one in five women are carers, and there can be even more significant difficulties balancing work live with other responsibilities.

On a global level, only five countries have gender pay gaps below 10%, and some have a disparity of close to 40%. Internationally, only 1% of land is owned by women, and only a fifth of managers are women, in all walks of life and professions. Progress is being made, but in my opinion the speed is far too slow.

I passionately believe that men must be far more vocal on these injustices. Ultimately, the fight for gender equality should be led by women. However, as allies in the fight, we male Members of Parliament must use the platform that we have been given to highlight the injustices.

I want to focus for a moment on the scale of femicide in the UK. In December I raised in this Chamber the femicide census published by Women’s Aid and nia. The report details the cases of nearly 1,000 women in England and Wales who have been killed by men since 2009, demonstrating the absolute worst product of sexism in the UK. It showed that the majority of women killed by men are murdered by their former or current partner, in what the report says is often “the final act of control” in an abusive relationship. Following the release of those data, Women’s Aid and nia called for long-term funding of specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services, as well as additional funding for specialist projects for women to exit prostitution. The partnership also called for a specific recognition that post-separation is a significantly heightened risk period for women leaving abusive relationships.

That report and the subsequent recommendations were published on Wednesday 7 December. The following day, in this Chamber, I called on the Government to make a statement on what they will be doing to put a stop to any more women being killed at the hands of men through domestic violence. I am disappointed to say that, 12 weeks later, there has been no public response from the Government on those recommendations—I am happy for the Minister to correct me if that is not the case.

I am pleased by the action being taken by the Welsh Government down the road in Cardiff Bay. The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 improved the consistency, quality and join-up of service provision, introduced a needs-based approach to developing strategies that will ensure strong strategic direction and strengthened accountability, and worked to promote the awareness of, and to prevent, protect and support, victims of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Since the Act became law, the Welsh Government have consistently looked for new ways of tackling the issue of domestic violence.

I started my speech by naming two women who are famous for their accomplishments in various fields of expertise. I will end by paying tribute to the many women in my constituency, and probably in every constituency, who frankly are the lifeblood of our communities, be they the women who run the football clubs, the youth clubs, the scouts and the guides, or the business leaders, the managers, the public servants and the entrepreneurs, and all the women who hold public office, in this Chamber and every council and Assembly Chamber across the land. Their leadership is vital, their achievements are many and, frankly, they do a damn sight better job, often with more complex lives, than many of the men I know who do it.