Our legal system is failing women and needs fundamental reform, finds a January 2018 report (pdf) from the Fawcett Society.
The report explores eight themes and makes recommendations for improvement. These themes are: Brexit, women in the workplace, violence against women, hate crime and misogyny, promoting equality, access to justice, multiple discrimination and sex equality in Northern Ireland.
Key findings include:
- Half of all women have experienced sexual harassment at work (pdf)
- 64% of women of all ages have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places
- 1 in 5 women aged over 16 have experienced sexual assault
- In some sexual offences cases a victim’s sexual history evidence is being inappropriately used in court
- Progress on closing the pay gap has stalled, and a lack of transparency prevents women from challenging unequal pay and legal cases can take many years to resolve
- 54,000 pregnant women and working mothers are pressured to leave their job early each year but just 1% of cases go to tribunal. Women are not protected after they return to work from maternity leave
- Statutory maternity and paternity pay is amongst the lowest in Europe
- Shared Parental Leave is not enough to enable many fathers to take time off work to care
- If someone is discriminated against because of more than one aspect of their identity they are not protected by the law
- The number of legal centres around the country has halved in ten years.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:
“What we see is a deeply misogynistic culture where harassment and abuse are endemic and normalised coupled with a legal system that lets women down because in many cases it doesn’t provide access to justice.’
Dame Laura Cox, Chair of the Review Panel said:
“The evidence we received, of increasing levels of violence, abuse and harassment against women, was deeply disturbing. A lack of access to justice for such women has wide-ranging implications not only for the women themselves, but also for society as a whole and for public confidence in our justice system.’