The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called for all-female shortlists to achieve equal representation in parliament and wants to aim for the same in public offices, as part of a series of wide-ranging measures to address the under-representation of women in public life.
Placing women’s issues firmly at the heart of his leadership campaign, Corbyn committed to a regular gender audit of Labour policies to ensure the party is engaged in moving towards gender equality in society.
Launching a document titled “Equality for Women”, Corbyn said the political atmosphere had changed since his election as Labour leader. Addressing an all-female audience of about 60 Labour members at the London headquarters of the trade union Unison, which is backing him in the leadership contest, he told them: “This genie is not going back in any bottle.”
Corbyn outlined his support for a policymaking annual Labour women’s conference and committed to consult on establishing a high-level strategic women’s advisory board, linked to the Labour leader’s office, to ensure women are at the heart of the party’s policies.
Repeating the mantra that austerity was not working, and that it had disproportionately harmed women, he said that under his leadership Labour’s public investment strategy would provide the foundation for an economy that delivers for women.
Labour would increase recruitment of women in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing occupations, and give enhanced powers to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to penalise companies that do not publish detailed gender pay data.
In the document, he also pledged a wide-ranging consultation on strengthening the law and its implementation on sexual violence, sexual harassment and online abuse
“We will never be a successful society in which everybody is able to achieve their potential until there is equality for women,” he said. “The waste that is brought about in our society by discrimination and poverty is absolutely huge. We are all the poorer.”
Labour would “break down occupation segregation”, he said, adding: “By ending austerity and by delivering these policies we can help to develop a society in the future where there is not the levels of discrimination there are at the moment.”
On the question of combating sexual violence, including rape, against women, he called for sex and relationship counselling for children in all schools to change attitudes in society.
When asked how he intended to win over any alienated female Labour MPs, he said: “I will send them all copies of the policies that we have put forward including this document we are putting forward this evening and try and show to them that we are serious about developing policies, we are serious about the inclusion of everyone within the Labour party and the Labour movement in this whole project because that is the only way in which we can successfully take on the Tories in a general election.”
Corbyn said he would consult widely – within the Labour party, with trade unions, with campaign groups – about how to set up the women’s advisory group, adding: “It won’t be a quick and easy process.”
“This is a serious attempt to change the way policy making is done,” he said.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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