25 February 2019 

Today the Equality and Human Rights Commission are presenting an updated report on women’s rights to the United Nations in Geneva.

The wide-ranging report focuses on the developments in education, detention and asylum, access to civil justice, the workplace and health care since July last year when we published our report ‘Women’s rights and gender equality in 2018’. They have also made recommendations aimed at increasing support for victims of domestic abuse and eliminating gender stereotypes in everyday life.

As Great Britain enters the second year of gender pay gap reporting, the review calls again for employers to publish action plans which set out the reasons for their gaps and what they will be doing to close them. It also calls on the UK and Welsh governments to develop national action plans to close gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps.

They have also called for the Domestic Abuse Bill in England and Wales to recognise the disproportionate impact this issue has on women and for adequate funding and support to address all forms of abuse, including for women with specialist needs.

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

'There is a view that women’s rights have progressed rapidly in the last few years. And we have seen and warmly welcomed important milestones in the shape of a renewed focus on shared parenting responsibilities, initiatives to end gender stereotyping and the first-ever successful FGM conviction.

'But it would be misguided to think that women and girls have equality in the UK and that there is no more work to do. Violence against women and girls is still pervasive, workplace sexual harassment is never far from the news, disabled women are still underrepresented in politics and public life, and many sectors still have significant gender pay gaps.

'The recommendations in this report are intended to improve the lives of women and girls across Britain and protect their fundamental rights. We cannot afford to be complacent in our efforts to ensure that women and girls enjoy their right to feel safe and empowered in their everyday lives.'

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Chief Executive, said: 

'We have major gaps in our equality laws. Our equal pay legislation is not fit for purpose, violence against women and girls is endemic and we are yet to take action to change workplace culture to tackle sexual harassment in the wake of #MeToo.

'We need a requirement to publish action plans on gender pay gap reporting, plus real transparency on pay, a new statutory duty to prevent sexual harassment and misogyny to be recognised as a hate crime.

'We also have to move on from the 1950s model of family life and enable women and men to share care for children. This means a longer, better paid period of leave for dads and every job advertised as a flexible working job, unless there is a business reason for it not to be.

'As we approach the cliff edge of Brexit women’s rights are far from safe. There is much to do if we want to see progress and avoid turning the clock back.'

The full report and list of recommendations is available on our website, and has been submitted to the United Nations as part of its review into the UK’s women’s rights record.

Notes to editors

  1. These recommendations are addressed to the UK and Welsh governments only, though they may also be relevant to other devolved administrations. The separate submission of the Scottish Human Rights Commission will cover areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and the separate submission of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will cover Northern Ireland.
  2. In July 2018, we submitted our report ‘Women’s rights and gender equality in 2018’ to the UN as part of its work monitoring the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The report assessed women’s rights since 2013 and made recommendations to the UK and Welsh governments.
  3. This report provides a follow-up assessment ahead of the final stage of the UN’s review of women's rights in the UK. On Tuesday 26 February, the UK government will be assessed on its gender equality record, after which the UN will publish recommendations for improvement.
  4. We have also provided funding to support civil society’s engagement with this review. Engender, Women’s Equality Network Wales and Women’s Resource Centre have submitted their own independent reports as part of this process.

Read the full report on Women's rights and gender equality