Last week, as 50:50 launched the #AskHertoStand campaign something fantastic happened for the path to Parliamentary equality; Sarah Olney overturned the 23,000 strong majority of Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park, becoming the third woman to hold the seat since its creation in 1997.
For gender equality campaigners, this was a celebrated victory. With an elected chamber where there are more men than there have ever been women, we celebrate wins where we can and carry on the fight for representational equality.
We fight on because, in 2016, women remain widely underrepresented. But this isn’t just a question of equality between the genders in political office, it’s a question of social progress for all.
One example, which I have been monitoring closely, is the matter of the Istanbul Convention; a lifesaving piece of legislation that would finally give the UK a much needed framework to tackle violence against women.
Along with a committed band of women and other allies keen to see the government tackle the very real issue of violence against women (2 women are killed each week by a current partner or ex male partner), I have watched the government fail to prioritise and ratify the Istanbul Convention, which would enshrine the rights and safety of women in the UK. When Theresa May was at the Home Office some progress was made and the promise to ratify was repeated by then Prime Minister David Cameron but it never materialised.
I’ve often wondered to myself why the UK has not made the Istanbul Convention a priority. It begs the question, would we still be campaigning for ratification of the Istanbul Convention if we had a gender balanced, 50:50 Parliament?
When you take a look at what female MPs have achieved, it’s hard to argue that we would be.
From Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act of the 1970s to Paula Sheriff’s Tampon Tax victory of 2016, it’s clear that when women have a say in Parliament, they are committed to changing the agenda and the lives of women for the better.
Right now campaigners and Parliamentarians are working hard to secure our next win.
As well as the sorry fact that every week two women in England and Wales are killed by a current or former male partner, at least one in every five women in the UK will experience some form of sexual violence in their adult life. These are the very real experiences of many of the women campaigning to get the Istanbul Convention ratified to help end violence against women and girls.
And we have a chance to make a step change on the matter. On 16th December, all members of Parliament can step up to the plate and make the reality of women’s lives better, thanks to the work of Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, who has tabled a Private Member’s Bill seeking the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. Many MP’s support ratification of the convention and what we need on the 16th is for them to show up.
It’s going to take 100 MPs turning up to move the bill to its next stage, that’s one step closer to pushing the Istanbul Convention over the line. 100 MPs might not seem that many, but that’s more than half of the 195 women in Parliament turning up on a day when MPs are usually meeting residents in their constituencies.
While we continue the fight for gender equality on the streets and in our homes across the UK, we need our elected officials to fight for progress and women’s safety in Parliament. That is why we need all MPs (455 men and 195 women) to get behind this bill on 16th December.
Together 50:50 and IC Change UK are asking their supporters to write, tweet and call their MPs to urge them to #ChangeHerstory and be there on Friday 16th December. If you want to find out more go to www.icchange.co.uk/pmb
Author: Georgie Laming, IC Change Campaign
#ChangeHerstory #ICChange #5050Parliament