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On June 8th 2017 the UK will go to the polls for a snap General Election (the BBC have a handy 'what you need to know' guide if you're not sure what that means).
Many have been taken by surprise by this election, and while parties are working on selecting their candidates and writing manifesto, we're keen to make sure that calls for women's equality aren't lost in the melee.
Sometimes in the life of a gender advocate the stars align to create a Platonic policy process. A proposal comes forward from government that is simple and easy to understand. Gender-disaggregated data is available. Other women’s organisations have the resource and interest to engage in a discussion about how to respond. Women are easy to include in the conversation. Feminist analysis leads inexorably to specific policy calls. Colleagues from across civil society agree with our take on the government’s proposals, and integrate our asks into their lobbying strategies. Government listens keenly to our input and develops its policy accordingly.
Most of the time, though, there is much more friction in feminist policy and advocacy. Government proposals may be vague or unclear, or broken into chunks that are hard to knit together. Consultation processes may be too short. There may be no data on how the policy will affect women and men, or no data at all. Other women’s organisations may not have the time or resource to focus on a specific area of policy, because of competing priorities. Feminist analysis may produce politically untenable asks. Other women’s organisations may disagree on our analysis or approach, or have other political drivers to sit out a particular issue. Colleagues from across civil society may feel that the gender dimension is a distraction or dilution of their own urgent priorities. Government may intentionally shape a consultation process to distance civil society, and women’s organisations.
The recent lobby and advocacy around the ‘family cap’ and ‘rape clause’ has definitely involved some friction. What that is, and why that has been sheds some light on broader questions about gender and policy.
There are lots of people in Scotland who have only become aware of the ‘rape clause’ in the last few weeks. In fact, its story began almost two years ago. So what’s been going on, and where do we go from here?
Our joint UK Parliament petition to scrap the ‘family cap’, including the ‘rape clause’, reached over 20,000 signatures in just its first weekend. This demonstrates the huge strength of feeling on this issue from people across the UK. In Scotland we have seen two large demonstrations, and statements of support from the leaders of four political parties, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
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