EU Referendum: Vote Leave
As part of our campaign to get women’s voices heard in the EU referendum debate, we asked Dreda Say Mitchell to tell us why she’s voting leave, and why it will benefit women. You can also read Monica Threlfall’s piece here to see what the Remain vote has to offer, or catch up on all our videos from the live debate we had in April.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from history, it’s that governments don’t cede democratic rights to their peoples without a fight. And if they don’t like ceding them to the population at large, they like ceding them to women and minorities even less. A century ago, the British state inflicted every kind of punishment on Suffragettes for having the effrontery to demand the right to vote. These rights have involved long struggles, sacrifices and cost lives to win and as a black woman, I’m not willing to compromise on them. And that’s my problem with the EU; that’s exactly what it does involve.
We had a typical example of this a few months ago. Women activists organised a campaign against the so-called ‘tampon tax’. Unusually, this was a battle that was soon won and MPs of all parties agreed it had to go. In a democratic society that should be the end of the matter. Instead, poor old George Osborne was dispatched to Brussels to persuade unelected, largely male bureaucrats to sign off on it. What kind of democracy is that? And just as pertinently, what kind of feminism is that?
I am well aware that many women will take one look at some prominent Brexit campaigners and think they’re not lining up on the same side as them. I’m not happy about that either but such figures don’t own this debate or the arguments. There’s a solid tradition of progressives and women who oppose the EU. I also know that campaigners can point to EU directives that secure the interests of women. But to suggest such interests can’t be defended in the context of our own democracy is the worst kind of defeatism. I know some women aren’t happy with the EU but want it reformed instead. But no pathway to reform is ever presented. The EU doesn’t care what the people of Europe want; its response to various referenda in the past proves it.
I respect Remain campaigners and I would never deny that there aren’t advantages to EU membership or there may not be disadvantages to leaving. But sacrificing hard won democratic rights and self governance is too high a price to pay for them. Ask any asylum seeker or political prisoner. There’s a principle involved and it should matter to women even more than it does for men because we’ve had to pay more for it. Suffragettes demanded ‘Votes For Women!’ not ‘Votes For Women If…’ or ‘Votes For Women But…’ And it’s that principle I want to safeguard and why I’ll be voting to leave in June.
Make your voice heard on June 23rd in the EU Referendum vote. Don’t forget to register to vote by June 7th.
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