Commission calls for action to protect women's rights in Scotland

A new report delivered to the United Nations by the Scottish Human Rights Commission calls for greater government action to protect and fulfil women’s rights in Scotland.

The report will be presented to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on Monday 23 July and makes 27 recommendations to government including measures to ensure Brexit has no negative impact on women’s rights; 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.

Speaking in advance, Chair of the Commission, Judith Robertson, said:

“Recent campaigns like #metoo have exposed the reality of just how many women experience day-to-day violations of their rights to safety, security and justice.

“At the same time, 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. 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 continue 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 cites problems with women and girls accessing mental healthcare in Scotland. 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 Commission recommends that the Scottish Government ensures the NHS mental health strategy gives equal access to services for diverse groups of women.

Significant progress has been made in Scotland regarding violence against women, an example being the Domestic Abuse Act, but the Commission’s report draws attention to the need for concerted and continued action to protect women’s rights to be free from violence and harm, particularly in relation to misogynistic bullying and sexual harassment.


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