Tackling Gender Inequality

I have been contacted by a number of constituents concerned about gender inequality.  This is a very important issue, and while we have made some real progress as a society there is still a long way to go.

Women have been particularly hard hit by the last five years.  Labour's commitments on a higher minimum wage, outlawing exploitative zero hours contracts and tackling the pay gap will help.

On representation in Parliament, Labour pioneered the use of all women shortlists.  We now have more women MPs than all the other parties combined, 44 per cent of our Shadow Cabinet are women as well as our over half our candidates in target seats.  Ed Miliband is committed to 50 per cent of our Parliamentary Party being women.

Domestic violence is a massive problem and women's access to legal representation has been affected greatly by the changes in legal aid.  My shadow cabinet colleague Sadiq Khan has said that making it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain support from a lawyer will be a priority for us.  In addition, we are committed to new laws on domestic violence to prevent abusive partners avoiding prosecution.  A commissioner would be appointed to oversee "national standards" in such cases.

A Labour Government would also use £3m of the savings made from abolishing police and crime commissioners to set up a national refuge fund and we will continue national support for rape crisis centres too.

Finally, as a society, we need to take action to prevent violence in the next generation by changing attitudes.  That's why we want to see compulsory sex and relationship education to teach zero tolerance of violence in relationships among growing girls and boys.

Hilary Benn

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