Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Women’s Equality Party’s Policies: Your Need-To-Know

The Women’s Equality Party’s Policies: Your Need-To-Know

The Debrief: Low BMI models coming with warnings, report buttons on all social media, equal pay and quotas. Here's what the WEP have pledged...

The Women’s Equality Party, with no small task ahead in the bid to turn the UK into the proportionally representative, women-championing society it sort of should be right now, has announced its shiny new policies.

At the manifesto launch, they also – unlike many parties (OK, beyond Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens at the last election) – explained that they’d like to work with the current powers that be. Its leader Sophie Walker urges other parties to ‘work with us’ or ‘steal our policies’ in the party’s 35-page policy booklet.

So in the same way the very presence of the Greens have made people across the political spectrum more green with a small g, perhaps, at the very least, the fact there is a Women’s Equality Party with 45,000 members (Ukip has only 2,000 more at 47,000) could have some tangible influence on our government, without even winning a seat.

In that way, it could be a lot like Ukip, a party with only one MP but whose values – all surrounding immigration, it seems – infiltrated mainstream politics perhaps more prolifically than the actual migrants ‘poured’ into the UK (as they’d have put it) ahead of May this year.

Catherine Mayer, an author who, along with Sandi Toksvig (soon to replace Stephen Fry as presenter of QI, if you weren’t otherwise aware of her smart-person credentials), has helped put the party together, started the ball rolling. She says: ‘Because Ukip had shown that by being an electoral force, you galvanised the big parties into thinking, “Maybe we should focus on those policies.”’

And as for the Women’s Equality Party’s policies? Well, here they are, via The Telegraph.

1. Gender pay gap

To reverse a gap that sees women earning 19.1% less than men, they want companies with more than 250 employees to publish an annual report on men and women’s pay, along with their employment status and working hours.

This is just like David Cameron’s policy, except they want to roll it out to companies of more than 50 employees.

2. Childcare

After nine months of paid parental leave, the first 15 hours of childcare per week would be free, the rest costing £1 an hour.

3. Equal parenting

Parental leave to give both parents (including same-sex and adoptive parents) six weeks off for 90% of normal pay, and then 10 months on top to be shared between the parents. Single parents can name a secondary caregiver.

Oh, and baby change facilities must be available to both men and women, not simply squirrelled away in the women’s toilets.

4. Violence against women

At the moment, not all women who are domestically abused can afford to take their abuser to court, as legal aid has been suspended for some. WEP want to restore legal aid.

They also want to increase the number of refuges available to women and children escaping domestic abuse, making sure these offer culturally appropriate support, and that an anonymous database recording cases of forced marriage and FGM is created.

5. Sex work

They want women to never be prosecuted for selling sex, but for buying sex to be made illegal within two years.

This is the controversial Nordic model approach to sex work, which some sex workers disagree with because driving sex work further underground will not secure rights for them and could make their clients more difficult to deal with.

6. Equal representation

To get to 50:50, fast, extra measures need to be put in place – 66% of political candidates on a ballot should be women. 75% of new peerages should be for women, too. And boardrooms should be balanced.

7. Workplace discrimination

At present, to make a claim of discrimination at work, you have to pay £250. And then a hearing fee of £950. WEP would bring that down to £50.

Also, if you’re being discriminated against for being pregnant, you get nine months after having the baby to take your employers to court (instead of the current three).

8. Flexible working

Companies with over 250 employees should, on job adverts, mention their options for doing flexible work. Also, businesses need to focus WAY harder on offering flexible working.

9. Education

School curriculums would undergo an audit so that female role models are used whenever the opportunity arises. And stereotypes around clothes and toys would be challenged via campaign groups. Careers advice should be free from gendered stereotypes AND all pupils should have to study English or STEM until they’re 18.

10. Sex education

Sex education – it’s so mind-thuddingly obvious, isn’t it? – is to be made compulsory and include lessons on consent. All universities, schools and apprenticeship providers are to have a sexual harassment policy in place.

11. Media

Journalists and reporters to be informed on how to NOT minimise violence against women in reporting and how to NOT blame victims. Advertising guidelines to be updated so that airbrushing rules are tightened up and that adverts featuring models with low BMIs come with warning notices.

12. Online

They want websites intentionally posting and refusing to take down revenge porn to be held accountable. They also want victims to seek justice anonymously AND for a report button to be available on all social media platforms.

And there you have it. Not terrible ideas really, are they? Some won’t even cost that much to implement at all. As for elections, WEP will field candidates in Wales and Scotland, and, if they can raise £20,000, will go to the London mayoral election.

In the mean-time, Sophie asked the major parties to question why so many of their ranks are turning to WEP. ‘It seems to me they [the parties] are more interested in claiming the right to deliver equality than actually deliver it,’ she says.

We’re pretty grateful, then, that finally there seems to be a party who will at least try to deliver equality for women!

Like this? You might also be interested in:

Here’s Why Politics Is About To Get A Bunch More Woman-Friendly

Which Party Should You Vote For To Help Women?

Britain Needs A Women’s Party, But What Could That Look Like?

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Pic: Getty

Tags: Feminism, Pure Politics