BY SOPHIE KEYWOOD
2018: The Year of The Woman. The year that marked one-hundred years since women were first allowed to vote in a British general election, and here we are, in 2019, on the brink of destruction. This country’s departure from the EU threatens to turn the clock back on women’s rights by decades; — a job that Trump seems to be personally taking care of.
14th December 1918 marked the first time that a ballot slip dropped from the fingers of a woman, leading to the fight for equal pay, maternity rights, parental leave, marriage laws, and gender equality. We are continuing along the path that those first footsteps created for us, but we seem to have turned on our heels, starting to find ourselves going backwards in time.
I remember the day I first voted. It was an experience that I will never forget. It sounds small and insignificant, but the suffragettes went through hell and back to get us that right. I cherished every moment of crossing that box following the flow of my pen with my heart, sealing the paper in half and dropping it into the ballot box; felt like I was ready to take on the world.
And now here I am, writing this…
The EU has been responsible for nearly all of the UK’s laws affecting women’s rights. The EU has dragged the UK through to 2019 and now women and marginalised communities are staring down the barrel of a fully loaded shitstorm. The removal of the Charter of Fundamental Rights from UK law means that the government has removed the ‘only express right to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in international law’, meaning that there are fewer antidotes to inequality that have no equivalence in UK law.
Polls suggest that 82% of 18-24-year olds (many of whom were too young to vote at the time of the EU referendum) would back remain; we are the women of today who will have to live with the Brexit of tomorrow. As Ayesha Hazarika says, that “If we get a no-deal Brexit it’ll be us, our daughters and our grand-daughters cleaning up the mess.”
Another concern is that when Brexit finally dawns we will lose the legal rights of the European Protection Orders (EPO) which grant victims of violence equivalent protection against a perpetrator across the EU, but will no longer be available to UK citizens. The ability to share data on offenders, as well as tackling human trafficking, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the sexual exploitation of children are all at risk of fading into insignificance.
Sophie Walker, former leader of The Women’s Equality Party, says that “We will insist that new laws and new trade deals are subject to intense scrutiny so that they serve to build up a more gender equal UK, rather than increasing inequalities.”
Now, that seems like a lot of words, laws and politics, but the short of it is that with the UK leaving the EU we will lose our ties with equal pay laws, antidiscrimination laws, special funding for women-led projects and protection against harassment and human trafficking; without the EU laws, meaning that as, women, we will be unprotected.