On the Agenda: Gender Making News


Gender Agenda

Gender Agenda

Issue 4 Lent 2003

The magazine of


Women's Union

On the Agenda: Gender Making News

Naomi Wynter-Vincent

 

  • Mind the Gap: It has been revealed by the research unit Incomes Data Services
    (IDS) that the gap between men and women’s pay increased for the first time in 15 years in
    2002, having fallen steadily since the 1980s. Although this statistic stemmed in large part
    from the massive payrises and bonuses given to men in the top 5% of the workforce, it still
    highlights the fact that there is, despite employment legislation, a pay differential between
    men and women with equivalent skills and experience – and that in fact the differential gets
    bigger the higher up the corporate ladder. Julie Mellor, chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities
    Commission expressed her renewed concern for a problem which remains resistant to government
    legislation. 
  • Paid to be a Good Dad: Fathers in Norfolk can now apply for a cash grant of up
    to 25 pounds to subsidise activities with their children. Paid for with taxpayers’ money and
    supported by the Norfolk Learning and Skills Council, the Active Dads Project aims to
    encourage men to spend more time with their children after a survey revealed that the average
    father spent no more than 15mins per day with his children. Conservative MP for South Norfolk,
    Richard Bacon, has criticised the scheme as a waste of taxpayers’ money and certainly there is
    an irony in the fact that men, who continue to earn more money on average than women (see
    above!), should be paid more to do one of the less strenuous components of parenting when the
    work of mothers has never been validated in the same way.
  • Men in the Classroom: The Teacher Training Agency (TTA) was pleased to report
    that applications by men to train as primary school teachers had risen by over a third in the
    last year. At the moment, men only account for 16% of primary school teachers, an imbalance
    that has led some social commentators to worry about the lack of role models for boys. The TTA
    hopes that they can continue to use advertising campaigns to increase recruitment of men by
    20% each year.
  • No to Female Circumcision: Increasing numbers of teenage girls in Kenya are
    running away from home to escape forced ‘circumcision’ or female genital mutilation
    (FGM) which is a rite of passage in many traditional African communities, where is seen as
    essential to guard a notion of female ‘purity’ and sexual morality. The practice takes several
    forms, ranging from complete excision of the clitoris and the labia to sewing up the labia to
    create an exaggerated ‘virginity’. FGM is widely regarded as a horrific practice in the west,
    though feminists have pointed out that so much in the western discourses of both religion and
    science have served the same purpose through the downgrading of female sexual pleasure and
    surveillance of women’s bodies and sexual behaviour. More than 100 girls are believed to be
    taking refuge at sympathetic local churches where they are cared for by women’s rights
    activists and pastors. Forced FGM has now been made illegal in 14 countries, including Kenya
    in 2001, though it is widely believed that the practice continues in secret. Women’s groups
    are working to reeducate local communities about the dangers of FGM and advocating alternative
    rituals to mark a girl’s rite of passage into adulthood, as well as teaching young girls that
    they have a choice.
  • In Women’s Hands: Mehbooba Mufti, a senior politician in India-administered
    Kashmir, and daughter of the chief minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has been outlining her
    vision for the future of war-torn Kashmir. She is increasingly seen as a champion of women’s
    rights in the region and is defiant in the face of conservatives who have demanded that women
    should not take jobs outside of family duties. She has said that the government must find ways
    to support and validate the experience of women and increase their opportunities to contribute
    to society. ‘Women are the worst victims of any conflict,’ she said, and demanded that the
    government should recognise the immense role that women in the region had played in healing
    communities broken by years of conflict and violence.
  • Unique or Eunuch? Courts in India have declared that eunuchs remain
    constitutionally male despite adopting female dress and names. The ruling has forced one
    eunuch, Kamla Jaan, out of her political office as mayor, for which only women are eligible to
    stand. Eunuchs (as understood in India) may be castrated males but the term refers also to
    transgendered individuals and hermaphrodites. Often ostracised by the family and the local
    community, eunuchs have in recent years turned to politics and have been surprisingly
    successful in their appeal to voters disillusioned with mainstream politics, arguing that
    their lack of family connections made them less likely to be corrupt. Kamla Jaan will be
    appealing against the decision in a bid to return to office in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Naked Ambition: Women in Australia have been taking their clothes off in order
    to protest against the government’s military build-up in preparation for possible war against
    Iraq. Over 700 women aged between 20 and 60 years old posed naked in Byron Bay, in New South
    Wales, to send their message, ‘No War’, spelled out in formation and visible from the air, to
    the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard. They hope that the stunt will raise awareness of
    growing anti-war sentiment in Australia. Meanwhile, a similar protest in New York was held on
    the same day, with thirty women stripping off to spell out ‘NO Bush’, in the snow.

 


 

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