Government Cuts to the Women's Sector are Tantamount to State Discrimination(11 Posts)
How the ConDem cuts are disproportionately affecting women, and devastating lives:
Many people in the UK have little or no understanding of the women's sector; they have not needed to use our services. However, there is a massive and ever growing number of women whose lives, and often the lives of their children, depend on these crucial organisations. This is no overstatement; the women's sector saves lives. From rape crisis centres to domestic violence refuges, services for trafficked women to women's health centres, the women's sector is the backbone of the lives of marginalised and oppressed women in the UK.
It is to women's organisation's that women who have experienced violence and/or abuse turn. The police consistently show their misogynistic attitudes and institutional failings in their dealing with rape investigations, from Saville, to Worboys, to Rochdale. Instead, only the women's sector provides specific services and safe spaces for women, it is a safety net for millions of women every year, particularly for those who have experienced violence.
Sadly the need for these services just keeps on rising. A report last year found that incidents of domestic violence have increased by 17% during the recession. You could be forgiven for expecting that funding for these essential services may have increased in order to meet demand. Unfortunately, the absolute opposite is true. The women's sector is experiencing the worst crisis it has ever seen; so many services are being forced into closure, are not able to provide services to fit the demand, or are having to turn women away. Women's Aid has reported that 230 women per day are turned away from domestic violence refuges. This week, Huffington Post published findings of its Freedom of Information request into cuts by 152 top-tier councils in the UK. It revealed £5.6m worth of cuts to services in the last four years, including refuges, domestic violence centres, and centres for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
These findings are not surprising to those of us who work in the women's sector, but they are extremely important in providing an external evaluation which proves, unequivocally how hard we have been hit under the coalition. Although funding has always been piecemeal and insufficient, women's organisations have survived through their creativity, dedication and commitment to improving the lives of women and girls across the country. However, these cuts are unique in their depth, their breadth, and in their discrimination against the most marginalised and oppressed in our society. They are tantamount to state discrimination against women.
Again, the majority of people in the UK have little or no understanding of the women's sector, and who could understand or care less than a conservative government, composed for the most part of white, middle class men? This government's disregard for women and other marginalised groups is so blatant that it is willing to flatly ignore the staggering cost saving which the women's sector provides to the state. It fills gaps in statutory provision, millions of pounds worth of service provision by police, social services, and the National Health Service. Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women's Aid told The Huffington Post UK that 'for every £1 spent we save £8 to statutory services'.
How can we make sense of such obvious cost savings being flouted by a government consumed by austerity measures? The answer is that the cuts are specifically aimed at the most marginalised in our society, money is being saved off the backs of those who have least capital to fight back, they have always been the easiest to impose upon. David Cameron regularly talks about social inequality; he spoke eloquently on International Women's Day about taking steps to address the almost epidemic levels of gender based violence, he made the (empty) promise that half of his cabinet members would be women, and he has spoken of a Big Society whereby "we are all in this together". However, this rhetoric is a smoke screen, it blindfolds us. We are told that 'benefit thieves' and immigrants are the enemy, and while our attention is diverted, the marginalised are undercut in the name of austerity. Meanwhile, this 'austerity' has not been extended to large corporations such as Starbucks, which made over £3bn in UK sales since 1998 and yet paid less than 1% in corporation tax.
Thus the cuts highlighted by The Huffington Post UK are specific in their discrimination against women, they target a women's sector at a time when demand is rising, and should be viewed in the wider context of government policies that push women ever further from achieving equality. This is a government which is not only making drastic cuts to the women's sector but to women's lives directly by cutting an additional £10bn to welfare, with zero gendered analysis, while all reports show that welfare cuts disproportionately affect women. This is a government which has instated a health minister who believes in cutting the abortion limit to 12 weeks, in the face of evidence against it, and even where there is a threat to the mother's life. This is a government which is rolling back women's rights across the board, but which goes unrecognised as no-one is joining up the dots.
Our system is broken; the power, the political capital, and the money resides at the top of a hierarchy. Meanwhile those in most need are further disempowered and pushed to the fringes of our society. Without funding the women's sector simply cannot provide lifesaving services to women in desperate need. We have seen a crisis in our financial system, how far will the government go in starving service providers before it recognises a politico-cultural crisis? How many women have to be turned away? How many lives have to be lost?
We are here, and we are making as much noise as we possibly can with our depleted resources, but it seems that only money talks and the government can hear only the rich, dulcet tones of its big business friends. This broken capitalism is being resuscitated at the cost of women's equality, and at the wider cost of social equality.
I agree with you and think that they are indeed reducing support services to women as a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise and isolate women. I also say that if this was just aimed at women we could have a much more significant conversation about what the motivation is, and why the present government seem to want to roll back decades of civic society growth which by and large helps women to be much more than the 2nd class citizens than they used to be. In many cases some of the most valuable services were not the ones that provided direct support, but the ones that aimed to increase awareness in women and girls about how they could be more successful, strong minded, focused on achieving things that they want rather than what is expected of them.
However I note that the entire third sector is being reduced, the support to all sectors of the community, young and old, girls, boys, teens, physical, mental, and learning disabilities. Health, education, leisure all provided by the community for the community are all being starved of funding. This is not a gender based attack it is a class based attack. As a community worker I know that women were very often the ones to start very small very local groups of all nature. This was good for the entire community but especially for women as it gave out the message that women can do things, and wield control over their lives.
ttosca you in particular might be interested in looking at this: http://radicalindependence.org/ and this article the fight must be common as the cuts are not about any one gender or one part of the coomunity. In order to defend services for women we must defend services for all, or else we end up doing the governments work for them, we become the tool by which we are deciding who is worthy and who is not.
No, I agree that it is primarily a class-based attacked. I think that the cuts are hitting particularly hard primarily because women have still not achieved equality in employment and wealth as men, and are still subject to violence far more often than men.
Additionally, I do think there is an element of conservative ideology here which is the idea that a woman's place is in the home, sex before marriage is wrong, and abortion is wrong - which is why there is probably an element of glee with these cuts, as it makes it harder for women to empower themselves and achieve equality and independence.
Ttosca, I am not fighting against you in general even if you have not noticed I have posted supporting your stances on many things. But I honestly do not think we have the time or the energy to be running round saying who is worse off, women, disabled women, disabled women with a baby, etc. The 99% are just that, if you want to make a special hardship case for women as I would do for the disabled then were fucked, we end up fighting to cut each others throats. Tis one reason why the fwr board on here gets on my nerves, all this " we are oppressed, were hard done by" Ok so are many people but the only way that any of us will change it is to act together and build anew which means giving up power bases and building alliances.
If you posted this in the FWR section the chances are you would get little interest. I think rad tendencies mean that women see women's oppression as completely separate to class. We are told feminism is dead! well it's certainly turning into a lame duck when half the population think women already have equality. NO. they don't, middle class women may have greater equality and since they are the only voices in the mainstream media, the women go back to worrying about how much they should pay the hired help.
I wonder what Sam Cam thinks when she looks at Dave?
Mini I would bet I would get slated never mind no interest, although I wonder about how the objectives of equality and the improvement in womens lives that feminism has at its core, could be acheived with out the active support of men. For the most part the disabled community have accepted that we do not just need abled bodied people to join with us, but as a community we are always going to be unable to make the changes we want on our own. Not just becouse of the numbers but becouse we are fighting very powerful interests.
I agree with you that it's a class based attack - like I said in my post. I don't want to be sectarian about it or divide the issue over who is the more oppressed.
The reason I posted this particular article is to get people more interested and, yes, more agitated about the cuts - in general - which are affecting us all.
I would certainly hope that people can see in any case that harm to one 'section' (in this case, 51%) of society harms every other section.
ttosca have you not noticed that more politics occurs off the politics board on MN. AIBU gets far more traffic. Recent threads in AIBU on the cuts, workfare, poverty, benefits, food banks. Just a suggestion, if you want to "agitate"
Conservatives have an ideological hatred towards working class women. The cuts are an attack upon single women in particular, to make more women dependant upon a male owner. It fits with their idea that "family" is the nuclear family, a unit of economic unit of consumption and production. Any women not playing ball with this is amoral.
Mini and ttosca we are in general agreement so what do we do about it here on mn, support each others posts? Take a more general anti cuts stand saying that all cuts are an attack on human rights, equality, and the poor? Campaign for mnhq to get off the fence, despite what we hear about them "being in talks with the government" we see little in terms of campaigning, in fact I am slightly meh about the toy campaign that has just started, I think the number of people buying new toys for their kids this year is the story not what packaging they are in.
Sorry rambeling a bit, too early in the morning. I do though think that we when we can do a good job of putting over the alternative, it takes so much flippin energy though to say the same things over and over again, for which ttosca I commend you, your energy and persistence is a sight for knackerd eyes.
Heaven help us if MN are in talks with the government
One of the problems with putting forward an alternative is that if you are not prepared to be 100% transparent about what your alternative is, then you run the risk of being heckled as either far left (see there, can't say more than that !) which many fear in total and perpetual ignorance or supporting labour who lack any credibility. My answer to this is to be far more honest. I don't believe that ANYONE should rush to support something until they are "educated" as to what it is they are campaigning for. Which is why I support the union movement but I don't see that as offering a way forward, I vote labour but with the tacit understanding that their benevolence coupled with their duplicity will probably lead to greater economic problems long term. So what to do?
Of course you could raise much needed money for refuge. You could give to charity but in the final analysis, even giving to charity is a "corporate" subsidy because people needing the services are mostly on low incomes, those that give are on modest wages and pay high taxes, those that should pay taxes and contribute to welfare avoid taxes. So I don't see charitable giving as anything other than subsidy that allows those who create welfare need to avoid contributing to its cost.
I really don't nderstand why politicians continue to marginalise women - thank heaven it stopped mitt Romney being elected though!
I don't think this stuff is well publicised enoug though, and enough women vote with this stuff in mind.
I heard one political commentator describe women (in the context of the US election) as a "special interest group". WTF?!
If we got organised we could take over. We could demand better healthcare, better representation at all levels of organisations, better family services, everything, if we block voted for someone who would give it to us