Women's rights: Commission presents 24 recommendations to UN in Geneva
A new report delivered to the United Nations today by the Scottish Human Rights Commission calls for greater government action to protect and fulfil women’s rights in Scotland.
The report is being presented to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva on Tuesday 26 February and makes 24 recommendations to the Scottish Government. The Commission cites key concerns about the progress of women’s rights in Scotland, with a particular focus on the adverse impact of social security reforms and the impact of austerity on women’s economic and social rights; the persistent barriers to women’s participation in public life and accessing mental health services and the high prevalence of violence against women.
Chair of the Commission, Judith Robertson, said:
“Our recommendations to government include measures to ensure Brexit has no negative impact on women’s rights; in particular that our laws are strengthened to make internationally recognised women’s rights enforceable. It also recommends action to mitigate the impact of austerity on women’s economic and social rights; and improvements to law and policy to tackle the high prevalence of violence against women.
“Women continue to be underrepresented in public life, and to bear the brunt of austerity policies, with women from black and minority ethnic communities, disabled women and women on low incomes often experiencing a double or triple whammy of disadvantage.
“While the Scottish Government is to be commended for many of its actions to progress gender equality, our latest report to the UN shows that it must now go further, faster, to ensure that all women in Scotland are able to enjoy all of their rights – economic, social, civil and political – on the same terms as their male counterparts.”
The report highlights that welfare reforms in the UK have had a disproportionately negative impact on women in Scotland. Women’s economic and social rights have been cumulatively impacted by the various changes to social security since 2010. An analysis of the recent benefit cuts and tax changes has forecast that by 2020, minority ethnic women in the poorest third of households will lose on average 17% of their net income.
The report calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the new social security system in Scotland addresses the specific problems experienced by women and continues to mitigate the impacts of welfare reform, particularly on disabled women, black and minority ethnic women and lone mothers who are disproportionately affected.
Women’s employment in Scotland is concentrated in the public sector but only 26% of public bodies are headed by women. Although 81% of the NHS workforce is comprised of women, 80% of the NHS Board chairs are men. In Scotland, the gender pay gap sits at nearly 15% when comparing men’s and women’s overall hourly wages, placing Scotland second from the bottom of the 45 EU member states. The report recommends that the Scottish Government boosts their efforts to increase the representation of women in all aspects of political and public life.
The report indicates that problems remain in Scotland with regard to women’s and girls’ access to gender appropriate physical and mental healthcare in prison. While the situation has improved for women in detention during the last 4 years, questions remain in relation to the mental health services for prisoners, rehabilitation programmes and reintegration of female prisoners into the community.
Young women are more than twice as likely to be depressed as men, a problem which particularly affects women on low incomes, who are also more likely to be disabled or from black and minority ethnic communities. The report recommends that the Scottish Government ensures the NHS mental health strategy gives equal access to services for diverse groups of women.
The report states that the number of rape and attempted rape crimes recorded by the police increased by 20% between 2016 and 2018, while the number of sexual assaults rose by 13%, but conviction rates remain low. Whilst significant progress has been made in Scotland regarding violence against women, an example being the Domestic Abuse Act, the report states that without appropriate training for prosecutors and the police, and a greater awareness of the public and victims, the new legislation will not be effective. The report calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that all relevant agencies are appropriately trained and funded to implement the new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act.
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