23 JULY 2018

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned women are still being “failed” in many areas of life, in its largest ever review of women’s rights.

‘Pressing for progress: women’s rights and gender equality in 2018’, which is being presented to the United Nations in Geneva today, the Commission says more action is needed to better protect women and girls from violence.

Fawcett Society Chief Executive Sam Smethers said:

"Violence against women and girls is endemic in our society, misogyny is so widespread it is invisible to some and sexual harassment is commonplace.

"Shared Parental Leave and flexible working haven't changed the fundamentals of who is doing unpaid care work - it still primarily falls to women. And when they do 54,000 mothers lose their jobs each year simply for being pregnant.

"In our parliament we have no baby leave for MPs, and a culture that is still more akin to a gentleman's club than a modern legislature. 

"Fawcett's Sex Discrimination Law Review recommended a new statutory duty on employers to prevent harassment and discrimination; tougher gender pay gap reporting and pay transparency requirements; all jobs advertised as flexible working by default, more generous leave for fathers and stronger protections for pregnant women at work.

"We also need to make misogyny a hate crime and improve protections and support for survivors of gender-based violence."

The report sets out a number of concerns and recommendations including better support for survivors of domestic violence, higher prosecution and conviction rates for violent crimes against women and girls, and a review of hate crime legislation.

The report also emphasises the importance of ensuring that there is no regression in equality and human rights protections as a result of the changes introduced as we leave the EU, and that we do not lag behind future developments in equality and human rights. It also highlights that funding for women’s services may decrease as a result.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“There is a lot to celebrate in terms of the awareness and realisation of women’s rights right now: it’s been 100 years since some women got the vote, forced marriage has been criminalised, and we’ve seen great strides in the workplace through shared parental leave and the successful introduction of gender pay gap regulations.

Yet it is estimated that only 15% of survivors of sexual violence report their experience to the police, and social movements such as #MeToo continue to shine a spotlight on areas where women are being failed. The priority must now be ensuring that women and girls of all ages can enjoy their basic right to feel safe in their everyday lives. Our recommendations are intended to improve the lives of women and girls and to protect their fundamental rights. This centenary year is a good time to take action.”