If women ruled the world…
In my morning routine you can guarantee two things a. I am woken up by my cat at exactly 7am every day (even Sundays…apparently cats do not observe a day of rest) and b. from 7am until 8.30 at some point I am arguing with the Today programme. They obviously don’t argue back so, from the outside, I might look like a weird cat lady just shouting at the radio…
Yesterday, either due to my mild mood or good programming I was instead reflecting the BBC’s ‘What If survey. One of the questions was how would politics be different if there were more women? Having done a long protracted essay on this last year I know that whilst my heart tells me that more women representatives in politics would be good for women’s rights…the evidence is still thin on the ground.
However, I was tuning into the latest episode of Parliament TV, you know the one… the one where the Foreign Secretary gives evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee? Well anyway, I was looking forward to hearing the Committee scrutinise how the UK government tackles human rights abuses around the world.
This particular episode included a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, including Afghanistan. It mostly concentrated on whether or not the UK government were going to arm the Syrian Opposition – a fairly risky manoeuvre to say the least. We believe that because of the existence of human rights abuses by some armed opposition groups, arms transfers to the opposition groups should be withheld until the removal of any substantial risk of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
After getting my (second cup of coffee) and reviving my will to live I noticed that despite the fact that the Committee were covering countries from Syria to Afghanistan, there was scant mention of women’s rights.
No mention of how the women and girls protesting in the vicinity of Tahrir Square are being sexually attacked by mobs, with authorities remaining idle. No questions, or answers for that matter, on sexual violence in Syria or the cripplingly high levels of violence against women in Afghanistan that means it remains one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to be a woman.
And then the penny dropped, the women MPs on the Committee were not there (for the whole session anyway). It is the women on the Committee who raise women’s rights and because they weren’t there… none of the chaps thought it worth a mention.
The women on the Committee deserve recognition for being long-standing and outspoken women’s rights champions. But that does not mean that male MPs should leave the women to talk about women’s right. A job for the girls, as it were? I wonder what the women our male MPs represent would make of that?
So what would I do if I ruled the world (or had a bit more sway in the UK)? Well for starters I would make sure all politicians scrutinised UK government policy and how it affects both men and women and I would ensure that the UK government prioritised women’s rights across all departments working on Afghanistan.
And finally, since the power is going to my head, I would also have brought out the Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls report out a day early – so it could be discussed in the evidence session. It is a report which slams UK government arms sales to repressive regimes. Then I would just sit back and enjoy the members of the Committee making the Foreign Secretary explain why the UK government is issuing licences for the sale of lethal weapons to repressive regimes including China, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka? I would have certainly chipped in that the UK government owes us an urgent explanation of what these licences were actually for, who was going to use them and what assurances were in place to ensure they were not going to be used for human rights violations.
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