Britain: Women hit hard by austerity

Issue 

Women and girls are among the hardest hit by the anti-working-class policies of Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

A report published in The Guardian earlier this year showed that rising taxes and cuts to social spending have hit women three times as hard as men.

Women aged 50-64 have been hit hardest by rising unemployment since the coalition came to power. It is up 31% compared to an overall rise of 4.2% in the country (to 2.6 million people).

The deeply sexist character of the British ruling class and its governing institutions has been revealed in several widely reported cases of sexual abuse and assault of women and girls.

Police are investigating dozens of accusations of sexual interference and assault against teenage girls by former BBC music program host Jimmy Savile. The entertainer died last year. The accusations go back decades.

Many of the assaults took place in the BBC television studios where Savile worked and in hospitals where he routinely visited on behalf of his widely acclaimed charity. As a result, the managers of the BBC and the National Health Service are being investigated for negligence or potential complicity, and possibly face legal action by victims.

Women media personalities have come forward to say that sexual groping by male colleagues or pressures from managers to perform sexual acts for career advancement have long been standard conduct in the industry. A study by Britain's Equal Opportunities Commission in 2000 found that 50% of women suffer sexual harassment or worse in the workplace.

Several political police agencies are facing legal action by women who were victims of sexual predation by undercover police during operations against environmental and other political movements.

Government ministers from the Conservative Party have chosen this moment to open an attack on abortion rights. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt says he wants abortion made illegal after the 12th week of pregnancy. Secretary for women Maria Miller says it should be 20 weeks.

Abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy has been legal in Britain since 1967. There are compelling reasons why an arbitrary cut-off timing of the service is dangerous for women, not to speak of a violation of their right to control their bodies.

An important exception to abortion availability is in the British enclave of Northern Ireland, where the law severely restricts access. A battle has begun there, including opposition from Protestant and Catholic church leaders, after the recent opening of the territory's first sexual reproductive clinic, including abortion services.

[An excerpt from a longer article published at The Bullet.]