Tonight I went to a local debate, hosted by The Women’s Equality Party, about women’s rights in Britain’s future. Let’s just say, I didn’t leave doing a little sidekick in the air and whooping. I left feeling unusually pessimistic.
Amongst the panel and audience where people ‘in the know’. One had come fresh from a House of Lords meetings on the ramifications of (women’s) rights if/when Brexit happens and it wasn’t terribly reassuring. Her questions to the House of Lords were along the lines of, ‘What will happen to our rights when we leave?’, ‘Who is overseeing this?’, ‘Who is mediating this?’. ‘How many involved in all of the above are women?’.
Most of our employment rights in the UK (including equal pay and time off for maternity appointments) are because of the EU. The rights are in secondary legislation, which means the government, and not through debate, can decide what happens to them. What if they decide to roll back these laws, as has been done many times before in other countries when significant change has happened. They may promise them at the time of Brexit, but what about a month later; a year; two?
We remain hopeful that this won’t be the case, but there are no guarantees. Headlines were quoted; large corporations vilifying pregnancy rights and equal pay.
I left unsettled, with a fear of what might be. Overreacting? Maybe. But, look at the last 12 months in politics, not just in the UK, but globally. Anything could happen and who is going to stop it? And, how?
The mere possibility reiterates the ongoing inferiority of women in our society, that 100 years on from women’s suffrage, we are still fighting, still being labelled, still ‘the shrieking sisterhood’.
Keep shrieking, sisters. Keep shrieking.