Britain: Women ‘Condem-ned’

Conservative – Liberal Democrat government cuts devastating impact on women

The impact of the cuts being made by the Conservative – Liberal Democrat (‘Con-Dem’) government on women in Britain will be devastating. All age groups will be affected, from young women – who will no longer have access to advice and help specifically tailored to them, such as contraception, reproductive rights and teenage pregnancy – to those looking ahead to their pensions. Refuges for women facing domestic violence are being closed, making it more difficult for women to flee from violent partners.

£11billion has already been cut from welfare benefits which women will bear the brunt of. The freeze on child benefit and cuts to grants for pregnant women add up to cuts of £2.4 billion. The lowest income families with new babies will lose £1,293 a year, once the cuts are fully implemented.

Women make up two-thirds of public sector workers in Britain, so job losses are going to significantly affect them. Despite there being high trade union density in the public sector unions there are few signs of a fight-back in most of them. Women workers, alongside male trade-unionists, will have to demand action from their leaders.

Last year was the 40th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act in the UK which was won through struggle. This year women will be fighting to save their jobs.

Many women in their fifties are furious that the age at which they can receive the state pension is rising so that many will have to work at least a year or more than they originally thought. A lot of these women are single and have not got a private pension to fall back on. This is on top of attacks on occupational pensions which could trigger united action across the public sector.

This year on International Women’s Day, many feminist organisations are highlighting the winning of the vote for women. The Socialist Party of England and Wales, while supporting the winning of the vote, will most importantly be encouraging women to join the battle to fight the cuts through their unions and through the anti-cuts bodies which are being set up all over the country.

Success for ‘Stop the Strip’ campaign

A "Stop the Strip" campaign in New Cross, South London, set up by local people and Socialist Party members, successfully achieved the closure of a lap-dancing bar at the White Hart pub.

Tania Eadie, one of the organisers, explains the importance of this campaign.

We achieved our aim of closing down a lap-dancing club, but there are at least 300 across the UK. The women who work in these bars don’t do it because it’s fun. The reasons why can be complex but for many it is fairly simple: they need the money.

It is not a choice between a holiday in Britain or abroad for many people; it’s a stark choice between food for the week or a heating bill. Places like the White Hart seem to offer the promise of easy, quick money. In reality, they offer the ’opportunity’ to be demeaned and treated like a sex object.

They also offer the opportunity to work in a violent, dangerous environment. These are places where the expectation is that a woman working there may have sex with a customer.

They also increase the risk of violence in an area. When we held our demo of 100 people, many women told us that having a lap-dancing club in the area made them feel unsafe. No wonder, in a borough with the sixth highest incidence of rape in London.

At the protest demonstration, one guy going into the bar came up to us and tried to explain how it was just a bit of saucy fun. Lap dancing has become ’normalised’. But it’s not normal. It treats women as objects, commodities to be ogled at. None of us should have to put up with that.

Although we closed the White Hart lap-dancing club, there are plenty of other places like it. Socialists have to work to close these places both by explaining the reasons why women work in them and by demanding decent jobs and opportunities for all.

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March 2011