Brexit has been without a doubt a tumultuous time for everyone who isn’t straight, white, rich and male. The uncertainty hasn’t been good for anyone, apart from the people peddling the lies about refugees, and misogyny. Plenty of other countries looked at our EU referendum in shock whilst we set ourselves on fire and poured all the water down the drain; Britain, the nation that was fooled by a big red bus. We’re currently in this weird kind of purgatory until Article 50 is triggered, and Theresa May is certainly up for dragging us along. But the question certainly on my mind is what will this all mean for women? The main areas of concern (for me, anyway) are: how do we raise women’s voices in the negotiations, will we lose everything we and the suffragettes have fought so hard for, how do we help stop violence against women – particularly immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeking women, and how do we make sure that women crossing borders are protected?
Firstly, before the vote even happened, women were not represented in the debate, as only 16% of TV appearances were female. And of the women in the debates, most of them backed the Leave campaign. The gender divide that was already present pre-EU referendum has only widened since the vote, and it has justified, engendered, and exacerbated gender-based discrimination, and violence. The aftermath of the Brexit vote saw a 58% rise in hate crimes, mostly against Muslim men and women.
Leaving the EU will be a monumental loss for women if we are to have the “red, white, and blue Brexit” that Theresa May and the rest of her party have promised us. The EU has been central in making sure women workers have rights; gender equal pay was only enacted because the EU took the British government to court. Legislation that protected women from workplace harassment and violence, legal protection for pregnant women, paid holiday for women, and paid maternity AND paternity leave were all enacted because of the EU forcing our hand into doing so. Obviously, legislation concerning the protection of women has come into force before the EU, but more legislation has been passed when we became a member of it. Though, within the EU Britain has not achieved full gender equality and it will be a long time before it does, but it catalysed change, and that’s something we can’t ignore. Not to mention the fact that the EU forced our government to take in an albeit small amount of refugees – something David Cameron was very reluctant to do on his own.
Also, the EU makes it so that a lorry from Italy that once had to have 28 rigorous forms handed in and filed, and now just must fill in one. Travelling between borders in Europe became simpler when we entered the EU, and this fundamentally helped Britain. People from all over Europe came to work in the UK, and this has unquestionably helped our economy. The freedom of movement is of vital importance to the economy of the UK, and to lose it would be disastrous. Not to mention the question of what will happen to all the British people who have started their own little colonies in Spain.
Problematically, we do not know what is going to happen to these rights that were fought so tirelessly for. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is currently the thing protecting British our human rights. The Conservatives want to leave the ECHR. Their justification for doing so is that it will “gain back control”. Frankly, I don’t trust the Conservatives with my human rights as far as I could throw them. Full Conservative control is terrifying to me, and I can only imagine how much more terrifying it is for those worse off than me – asylum seekers, refugees, people of colour, differently abled people, and so on. They’ve already done so much damage. And with a low wage, low tax economy, it’s unlikely that human rights, never mind women’s rights, will be protected and extended by the Conservatives.
Written by Rochelle Asquith