Gender EqualityApril 19th, 2015
Thank you for contacting me recently regarding gender equality.
I believe that no one should suffer discrimination because of their gender or gender identity, nor indeed, because of their age, race, religion or belief, disability or sexual orientation. I am also proud that the Labour Party has been at the forefront of this fight for equality over many decades.
I agree, however, that while there has been real progress on gender equality in recent years, much more needs to be done to tackle vital issues such as the gender pay gap, violence against women and girls and women’s representation in public life.
It is completely unacceptable that 45 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, women in Britain still earn on average just 81p for every pound a man earns. Under this Government progress on closing the gender pay gap has actually slowed and a quarter of working women now earn less than the living wage. Women have also been at the sharp end of an economy that does not work for working people: 60 per cent of new jobs for women since 2010 have been in low-paid industries and childcare cuts have made it harder for families to balance work and care.
A Labour Government will help create a fairer, more balanced economy, raising the Minimum Wage to more than £8 per hour by October 2019, encouraging more employers to pay a living wage and tackling the scourge of insecure work by banning exploitative zero-hours contracts. We will also act on equal pay by requiring companies with more than 250 workers to publish their hourly pay gap in their annual reports, thereby increasing transparency and encouraging employers to address this.
I also agree that too little is being done to tackle domestic and sexual violence, to support victims and prosecute perpetrators. Reports of rape and domestic violence are up, yet the number of prosecutions and convictions are down. Specialist prosecutors for rape have also been cut back, domestic violence courts are closing, and specialist police officers are overstretched.
A Labour Government will strengthen domestic violence laws and widen access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence. We will establish a new National Refuge Fund to support women and children when they most need it, provide funding stability for Rape Crisis Centres across the country and introduce age-appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education to teach zero tolerance of violence in relationships.
I also believe that need bolder action is needed on women’s representation across public life. Labour has led the way on women’s representation in Parliament – in the last Parliament we had more female MPs than all the other Parties put together, over half of our target seat candidates at this Election are women and we will continue to strive for gender equality in Parliament. Labour will also set a goal that 50 per cent of all ministerial appointments to public boards should be women.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views on this extremely important issue. I hope this letter outlines my strong commitment to tackle gender inequality, sexism and domestic and sexual violence.