Recent Sex equality Articles

My British Asian Armpits4August experience

by Guest     August 31, 2013 at 12:24 pm

by Taran Bassi

For those of you who are unaware this past month has seen a campaign called ‘Armpits4August’ take place.

Confused? Well think of it like this – Movember for women, but for our armpits. Organised to raise awareness of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) that affects many women it is urging others to explore a main side effect; excessive hair growth.

Although being Asian guarantees me to have an eternal golden tan there is another consequence that is kept a closely guarded shameful secret by fellow Asian females. We are hairy. There I said it and I have exposed my fellow sisters!

The majority of Asian females are hairy and those who insist they are not are either one in a million or simply lying. As if being hairy and living in a society obsessed with strict hair free ideas of beauty was not bad enough – our hair is dark and therefore so much more visible.

The focus placed on British Asian females to be hair free is more complex than the narrow ideals of beauty within Western society and the fear of being viewed as ‘masculine’.

Instead, to be hairy and to embrace this is seen as a hesitation and challenge to fitting into a Western way of life. Within British Asian beauty guides and advice columns the obsession with hair removal is on par with the obsession to be light skinned.

Now – I have long battled with this and found myself trying to justify my hair removal regime to be necessary as my dark hair is more noticeable than that of my blonde-haired acquaintances. But I decided to stop feeling shameful about my body hair and I have spent the past month participating in Armpits4August.

My experience? Well it seems that many people felt compelled to be offended on my behalf for my own body hair. I had no issue in wearing sleeveless tops, but I was surprised by the reactions of others.

They ranged from being asked simply if I was a lesbian? To being branded ‘disgusting’ and even being told that luckily for me my face was pretty enough to pull off hairy armpits – erm thanks? What I have learnt is that body hair scares many. Especially dark visible hair.

My physical challenge to beauty norms allowed others to consider me to be vile, unhygienic (I actually smell really nice) and strange. But what I think is really strange is how the idea of a hairless woman is now accepted as a norm, even though all humans have body hair.

I have the option to remove the hair that I have grown for the last month and escape this criticism, but for those with PCOS the solution is not as simple as that.

So before judging a female for being ‘hairy’ and labelling her as ‘weird/dirty/gross’ just remember it is just hair – and the only thing strange is not its presence, but your own narrow minded reaction.

Taran Bassi blogs here and tweets from here.

Why we should oppose Islamic Sharia courts in Britain

by Guest     August 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

by Ben Six

The Islamic Sharia Council is the biggest Sharia body operating in Britain. The officialdom includes Maulana Abu Sayeed, Suhaib Hasan and Haitham al-Haddad. Sayeed, its President, was charged with involvement in war crimes in his homeland of Bangladesh, and has said that rape is “impossible” within marriages.

Hasan, its Secretary, was recorded by Undercover Mosque preaching that “the Khilaafah” will have “political dominance”; establish “the chopping of the hands of the thieves, the flogging of the adulterers and flogging of the drunkards” and wage “jihad against the non-Muslims”.

Haitham Al-Haddad, who represents the Council in the media, is a regular target of my blog. He is a sincere fellow and tends to be frank in expressing his principles. These are almost as obnoxious as principles can be but it is good to know where stands. It is what helps us to know that to have a man who endorses genital mutilation, tells parents to marry their daughters off while they are young, orders women to obey their husbands and tells people not to question men who beat their wives preside over familial affairs is dangerous and obscene.

Such beliefs can be reflected in the workings of the courts. I will take a moment to say that I have no grievance with anyone making the point that divorce, especially between people who have children, is a grave step that should be preceded with seriousness. What is vile about Suhaib Hasan, for one, is that he treats marital abuse with no such seriousness.

Panorama sent an undercover journalist to him, bearing a secret camera and a tale of regular, painful beatings from her husband. Hasan granted that she should go to the police as a last resort but told her that she should first ask him if she could appease him with her behaviour. To suggest that abuse might be a level response to, say, bad cooking is offensive in its silliness. To suggest that it is the victim’s duty to change her ways is obscene.

The Guardian plonked a camera down in his office two years ago. “He has hit me in the past,” it filmed a woman saying, “He hit me once”. “Only once?” Hasan replied with an obnoxious chuckle. “So it’s not a very serious matter”. How many women have been talked into staying with their husbands and endured further suffering?

Charlotte Proudman, a barrister blogging for the Independent, has explained how the courts are weighed against women.

If a husband seeks to divorce his wife, for example, he has to pay two hundred pounds. If a wife seeks to divorce her husband, she has to pay four hundred pounds. These women are not liable to have a great deal of spare cash. A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. An article on the website of the Islamic Sharia Council, which also endorsed capital punishment for adulterers almost in passing, said this is because “women…are governed by their emotions” while “man is governed by his mind”.

These courts have been overlooked because, well – they are filled with eccentric religionists doing things among themselves. This is idle. Women are being manipulated into endangering themselves, on the basis of ideas that most of them will have been raised to accept without question. Panorama alleged that kids have been ordered to be given up to violent husbands.

Moreover, men like Hasan, who wants to “offer” sharia law to the United Kingdom, and Haddad, who has spoken of the “Islamic Republic of Britain”, hope to one day expand their power over everyone.

It is time we made it harder for them to indulge their fantasies.

Time to frame Gay Marriage as ‘Pro-Family’

by Robert Sharp     December 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm

It’s encouraging to see that a group of Tories have formed a campaign group in support of gay marriage. Let us hope it hastens the day when the Government put the necessary legislation in place.

At the end of 2012, I assume the Liberal Conspiracy website is not best place to make arguments for gay marriage. There is a sense of preaching to the converted. Far better that the core case is made on places like Conservative Home.

But Christmas is coming, which is the perfect opportunity for us all to debate the issue with relatives or friends who may not yet be persuaded.

Over the turkey, then, you may hear a version of the tiresome talking point trotted out by Peter Bone MP over the weekend: Marriage has been defined as “between one man and one woman” for hundreds of years.

This really seems to be all the opponents of gay marriage have left – a feeble call-back to historical precedent and utterly discredited religious authority. They fail to follow up with a persuasive “and this is a good thing because…” Any arguments for why exclusively heterosexual marriage might better than extending the marriage ‘franchise’ fail in the 21st Century (for example, no-one these days seriously suggests that marriage is primarily about procreation).

Second, many people try to hide behind religious reasons for their opposition. “It is Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve!” Yawn. To that soundbite, it is worth pointing out that in the Garden of Eden story, the very first thing that God says about His creation, is that man should not be alone (Gen. 2-18).

By contrast, the position of the Christian churches currently requires gay people to be alone. It is a pro-loneliness, anti-Genesis position.

The prefixes “pro” and “anti” remind me of the ongoing political arguments over abortion, where the battle is over language as well as facts and values. The campaign for gay marriage needs to be similarly mindful of language.

For example, the Coalition for Marriage uses the language of preservation, where in fact their policies suppress the possible number of people who can get married.

The opposition to gay marriage is anti-marriage and anti-family, and should be framed as such.

Time For Disestablishmentarians to Pounce

by Robert Sharp     November 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

The Church of England will maintain its prohibition on women bishops. This news signals the moment is ripe for disestablishmentarians to pounce.

The careless, irresponsible, short-sighted, tone-deaf, out-of-touch, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot, desecration-of-duty, cut-your-nose-off-to-spite-your-face, living-in-the-dark-ages, missing-the-wood-for-the-trees decision to promote misogyny would never be accepted in any public organisation, commercial company, or lay-charity.

Now is the time for disestablishmentarians to remind everyone that the Church of England is part of the State. The case must be made that an institution that endorses and promotes this kind of misogyny cannot continue to be an official part of the British state.

This simple and persuasive argument should be presented to politicians and the public for renewed discussion. It should routinely be included in any talk of constitutional reform.

The Church of England does not appear to take tax-payers’ money, so formal disestablishment is revenue neutral. It would not entail the closure of any Churches. It would not hinder the practice of religion any more than it does for the many non-established Christian denominations or other faiths. But it would end state complicity in institutionalised sexism.

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The political cowardice behind Ireland’s abortion shame

by Guest     November 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm

by Evan O’Quigley

Ireland and the world were shocked and appalled when the story broke that a young Indian women Savita Halappanavar died unnecessarily in a Galway hospital because she was denied a termination of pregnancy. The cause of death was septicaemia as a result of a miscarriage.

Her husband Praveen repeatedly asked for a medical abortion to be carried out to reduce the risk to his wife’s life but was denied this, allegedly being told by the doctors ‘this is a catholic country’. Such a statement about Ireland, which is supposed to be a liberal and secular republic, is a disgrace.

The actual law regarding abortion in Ireland is currently in a state of ambiguity. The Irish Supreme Court ruled twenty years ago that abortions in cases where the life of the mother is at risk are legal.

Over 4,000 Irish women travel to Britain every year for abortions. Irish TD’s (MP’s) have repeatedly brought forward bills to the Irish Parliament (Dáil Eireann), yet no legal progress has been made on this issue, for fear of all of Ireland’s main political parties losing the votes of elderly conservative voters.

Ireland is disrespecting the rights of its citizens; Catholic and non-Catholic, as an increasing number are, with numbers rising for the last twenty years. Politicians have tried to avoid talking about this issue for twenty years, constantly hoping for a better time to discuss it.

Even in 2012, where there is no longer any threat of backlash from now powerless Bishops in the Catholic Church, a majority. A poll conducted by Sunday Times ‘Behaviour and Attitudes’ in September showed that an overwhelming majority of 80% of voters would support a change to the law to allow for abortions in cases like Savita’s where a mother’s life be at risk.

The Irish Labour party, currently in government as a junior-coalition partner, with the centre-right Fine Gael leading, are openly pro-choice, although earlier this year unanimously due to their party whip, rejected a bill proposed by Clare Daly and Joan Collins, two members of a small left-wing coalition called the ULA, that would finally legislate for the decision held by the courts in 1992. This was to avoid causing a rift in the government.

Such politicking with a serious issue is a shame, and Ireland’s international disgracing is a result of this should be taken very seriously by the government.

The Labour government have been criticised for this by the Campaign for Labour Policies, an activist group that calls for more progressive policies in the Labour Parliamentary Party.

Spokesperson Mags O’Brien said today “The Labour Party must immediately initiate emergency legislation in the Dáil to allow for termination of pregnancies based on the X case. The needless death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway could have been avoided.!

With Ireland now internationally embarrassed, with the story being reported across the world, it is up to the government to finally legislate for Abortion, to prevent another tragic and unnecessary

A longer and slightly different version of this article originally appeared on at the University Observer.

Pro-Choice protests after Savita Halappanavar’s death

by Sarah McAlpine     November 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm


Feminist groups are organising pro-choice protests demanding a change in Irish abortion law following the death of Savita Halappanavar who died of septecimia after being denied an abortion that could have saved her life.

Although Doctors assessed that 17-week pregnant Savita was miscarrying, they were unable to remove the foetus for three days due to the presence of a heartbeat. Abortion is legal in Ireland if the mothers’ life is at risk due ruling in 2010 from the European Court of Human Rights. However, the Irish Government has so far failed to implement any legislation to reflect the court’s ruling.

The ordeal left Savita in agonising pain, and opened her cervix up to infection. When she and her husband begged doctors to terminate the pregnancy they were told “this is a Catholic country”. Although Savita eventually had the foetus removed from her womb, it was too late and she died from infection a few days later.

The Pro-choice Campaign (Ireland) is organising a protest in Savita’s name outside the Dail at 6pm this evening, demanding that the Government cease in delaying a change to the law. The group released a statement on their facebook page accusing the Irish government of being “content to kick the problem down the road or pretend it doesn’t exist.”

“We will no longer tolerate their delaying tactics. Women’s lives are in danger until we have this legislation.”

British feminists are also planning a protest in solidarity outside the Irish Embassy in London at 6pm.


Domestic violence services in “worst crisis” on budgets

by Sarah McAlpine     November 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Services aimed at helping vulnerable and abused women are facing million-pound cuts as local authorities slash their budgets, leaving the womens’ sector in “the worst crisis it has ever been” in.

The top 152 councils in England are cutting spending to women’s services by an average of £44,914 each compared to budgets since 2009. Services include women’s refuges, rape crisis centres, domestic violence outreach, services for ethnic minority women, trafficked women & women in prostitution.

The cuts come in spite of a report conducted last year that found incidents of domestic violence had increased by 17% over the recession- to which experts attribute the rise. Women’s Aid report that around 320 women are turned away from domestic violence refuges each day.

Vivienne Hayes, chief executive of the Women’s Resource Centre remarked that due to the impact of the cuts, the women’s sector was in “the worst crisis it has ever been,”

“So many service providers have been forced to shut down, are not able to provide the services to fit the demand, or are having to turn women away.”

Chief executive of domestic violence charity Nia, Karen Ingala Smith said that vulnerable women may be left with “nowhere to go” once the cuts impact, and there was concern that this could lead to the deaths of some women at the hands of violent partners. It is estimated that up to two women a week are killed by their partner in Britain.

The 101 councils who responded to questions on spending through a Freedom Of Information request from the Huffington Post revealed that £5.6m of cuts have been made to services for vulnerable women when compared to 2009/10 spending. London alone has cut 1.9m.

Mary Mason of Solace Women’s Aid warned that cuts to domestic violence services could also increase the cost of the crime- £5bn in England alone. “Early intervention and support works- for every £1 spent we save £8 to statutory services.”

“Yet all our services are full, all have waiting lists and all services are forced to restrict time spent on supporting women and children.”

Liberal Conspiracy spoke to Glenda*, who was referred to her local rape crisis centre after being brutally attacked in October 2010.  She received one on one counselling, which she regards as “an important part of my recovery.”

“It was good just to have somewhere safe to go where I could be with someone who understood. [They] helped me carry on surviving.”

Domestic Violence services have also warned that the true extent to the cuts may run much deeper- changes to housing benefits and reforms to universal benefit mean that some women may be unable to leave abusive and violent partners.

Barnet Council’s Labour group deputy leader Barry Rawlings explained that Refuges may have to close due to benefit reforms. “Refuges are vital for the safety of women and children and rely on housing benefit to make them viable. The concern is the payment will be direct to the claimant who may well have moved on from the refuge by the time the payments come through and the refuge will never get the payment.”

Vivienne Hayes added that “This failure to address the causes and consequences of women’s inequality and ignorance of the lifesaving and the cost saving services the women’s sector provides, is indicative of this governments’ attitude towards women.”



*name changed to protect identity

Nadine Dorries Granted Debate On Abortion Limit

by Sarah McAlpine     October 25, 2012 at 12:01 am


Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has been granted a 90 minute debate on reducing the abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks.

The news comes on the same day that feminist activists marched on Parliament calling for women’s needs and concerns to be more central to government policymaking- including more parliamentary support for abortion rights. Thirteen out of the current sixteen conservative members of cabinet voted for a reduction in the upper limit when the issue was last debated in Parliament in 2008.

Health Minister Jeremy Hunt caused outrage earlier this month when he voiced support for halving the abortion limit to twelve weeks. Equalities Minister Maria Miller, Theresa May and David Cameron have all said that they would support a small reduction to the limit- although Cameron insisted at the time that there were no plans for a change in legislation.

Figures released earlier this week by the Department of Health have shown a consistent year-on-year reduction in the number of abortions taking place after thirteen weeks. In 2011 16,755 abortions were performed after 13 weeks- down from 18,990 in 2008. Labour MP Diane Abbott, who supports the current 24 week limit, said “It’s becoming clear that Jeremy Hunt’s wild attack on British women’s right to choose was not based on the figures, the medical evidence, or on any real understanding of women’s lives,”

“Unfortunately, what Jeremy Hunt has done is unlock the door to the right-wing of the Tory party to begin a campaign in parliament to reduce the time limits, and also offer a supporting hand to anti-choice campaigners who protest, shout, and host vigils outside clinics, as women enter.”

Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, argued if Dorries were “pro-woman” she ought to focus on access to contraception, improving access to early abortion and protesting cuts to midwives.

“There is no need to revisit this issue: but the tragedy is that the energy spent discussing it detracts time and attention from genuine problems in women’s reproductive healthcare.”

The debate will take place on the 31st October.

Opening Of First Abortion Clinic Sparks Protest In Northern Ireland

by Sarah McAlpine     October 18, 2012 at 10:18 pm


The first clinic offering abortion in Ireland opened it’s doors in Belfast today amidst protests from Catholics and Protestants.

The Marie Stopes family planning centre will offer the abortion pill to women under nine weeks pregnant-if doctors determine that they’re at risk of death or long term health damage from their pregnancy, in accordance with legislation in Northern Ireland. The centre will also provide contraception, emergency contraception, HIV & STI testing and ultrasounds.

More than 300 people opposed to abortion under all circumstances took the opportunity to protest outside the clinic hours ahead of it’s opening on Thursday morning, with placards reading “Keep Ireland Abortion Free”. They demanded that the centre be shut down to prevent it from becoming a beachhead for expanding abortion rights in Northern Ireland.

The leader of anti-abortion group ‘Precious Life’, Bernadette Smyth, said “We’re in 2012. Women’s health is not in danger. Women are not dying because they can’t get abortions.”

Liam Gibson from the Society of the Protection of Unborn Children called on Belfast police to arrest the clinic’s staff if they provide women with information about abortion services in Britain. Approximately 5,000 women travel to Britain from Ireland and Northern Ireland each year.

23 year old Suzanne Lee, a student from Northern Ireland, illegally ordered the abortion pill over the internet last year. She said that she would have liked to have been able to visit a Marie Stopes clinic for medical support when she self-administered the medication at six weeks of pregnancy. She described taking the pill as “quite an ordeal to go through.” It involved “severe cramping, a lot of bleeding. I bled for four weeks after it.” Lee expressed disgust that people “believe I should spend life in prison for what I did.”

Officials from Marie Stopes said that they have already been deluged with calls from women, including Republic of Ireland residents, seeking appointments. However, due to the legal restrictions in Northern Ireland, they were expecting to provide relatively few abortions.

Vice President of Marie Stopes, Tracey McNeill said “Mostly what we’ll be doing is offering advice. Many of the people we see we won’t be able to treat, because of the legal framework,” adding that as long as patients weren’t harassed and intimidated, she had no problem with the protestors. “It’s important that people express their views in a democracy.”

Govt scales back protections against sexual harassment

by Sarah McAlpine     October 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm

The Government will be scaling back harassment protection in the workplace in a move women’s rights groups have said could “turn back time.”

In a bid to cut ‘red-tape’, employers will no longer be obliged to take steps to protect employees from harassment from third parties-such as customers. Under current legislation, reasonable steps are expected to be taken if an employee is repeatedly harassed in the work place.

The plans come during a week dominated by discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace- Janet Street-Porter, DJ Liz Kershaw and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig have all come forward with accounts of harassment and sexual assault whilst working for the BBC.

A 2012 survey of 3,400 women found that half of women had experienced ‘gendered harassment’ in the workplace.

Speaking to Liberal Conspiracy, Preethi Sundaram, Policy and Campaigns Manager for The Fawcett Society said “At a time when women’s workplace rights are already precarious, we cannot afford any risk of regression.”

“Employment regulation and protections against discrimination have been key drivers in giving women greater access to work and an independent income over the years – to put this on the bonfire would be to turn back time.”

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will also scrap what the Government is calling “needless beauracracy and out-of-date rules,” including a complete overhaul of the employment tribunal system.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said “clearing away barriers to help businesses grow and invest is an essential part of the Government’s plan for growth.”

“The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will help strengthen the business environment and boost confidence.”

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