The First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) published their First Report and Recommendations today. It details what had been their focus in 2018 and by grouping the issues identified across three themes, Leadership, Accountability and Creating Conditions, have made the following recommendations.

Leadership

• Create a ‘What Works?’ Institute to develop and test robust, evidence-led inclusive and representative approaches to changing public attitudes in Scotland to girls and women’s equality and rights.

• Legislate for local and national candidate quotas for all parties by the 2021 election.

• Carry out a thematic gender review of the new National Performance Framework as a catalyst for system analysis and change.

Accountability

• Create a ‘Gender Beacon Collaborative’ – made up of Scottish Government,
a Local Authority, a public body, a third sector agency and a business to take
a holistic and systemic approach to gender equality and work.

• Improve access to justice for women and girls experiencing men’s violence by:

• Creating a world-leading process for complainers of sexual violence.

• Criminalise serious misogynistic harassment, filling gaps in existing laws.

• Create a consistent and inclusive model to ensure that women experiencing domestic abuse have sufficient access to expert legal advice and legal aid.

• Create a resourced media body in Scotland to hold the media
to account and provide guidance on gender equality.

Creating Conditions

• Incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into Scots Law.

• Create a Commission on Gender Equality in Education and Learning, covering Early Years, Primary and Secondary Education and Learning, tasked with providing bold and far-reaching recommendations

on how gender equality can be embedded in all aspects of learning (from teacher training, to school behaviours/cultures, to the curriculum and CLD practice).

• Provide 50 hours per week of funded, good quality and flexible education and childcare for all children between six months and five years old.

• Create two ‘Daddy months’ of use-it-or-lose-it paid paternity leave in Scotland, using existing and additional powers transferred by UK Government.

• Embed gender sensitive approaches in all work relating to programmes developed through the new Scottish Government ‘Scottish Approach to Service Design’ model.


A number of the recommendations have been widely reported across various newspapers throughout the day,

but this article from The TimesPolitical Gender quotas to be representation” caught my attention, initially because of comments like the ones below from the Men of Scottish Twitter.

“Why just cushy politics roles? Why not lorry driving, road digging, sewage farm workers, miners and scaffies too?”

“Quotas are just discrimination by another name. The 2nd paragraph is worrying in my opinion, setting up a media watchdog to “police” the media for sexist comments, who decides what is sexist, what are the censures, who watches the watch(wo)men?”

“I’m for equality. This is discrimination through the back door.”

(There’s much I could say about these and in fact changing the attitudes and culture within Scotland are the main reasons for the recommendations above, but this blog isn’t about that. )


This article started off by reporting on one of those recommendations namely

  • Legislate for local and national candidate quotas for all parties by the 2021 election.

However, not one for taking something at face value I had a further and much closer look at each and every recommendation from the NACWG report. One by one they all used phrases like ‘gender equality’, ‘gender review’,’women and girls’, ‘misogynistic harassment’, ‘sexual violence’, ‘paternity leave’, ‘childcare’ and ‘domestic abuse’. Basically all the standard phrases we regularly read in reports about how to improve the lives of women and girls.

BUT this candidate quota recommendation doesn’t include any of those ‘inspirational womanly phrases’, so has it actually anything to do with women? I’m more inclined to think it has more to do with the new EQUAL REPRESENTATION in political parties project.

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If you look at the list of partners you’ll see Engender, Scottish Youth Parliament and Women 5050, organisations who have representatives who are also NACWG Council Members.

Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, however just now the trajectory of women’s rights in Scotland have been anything but normal for quite some time.

So, what does this Equal Representation Project say about setting targets and quotas in political parties

Ok, so there’s a lot here to work through but I’ll pick up on it starting with a quote about how the Equality Act makes positive action lawful to it then encouraging more people who identify as gender non-binary to be candidates. Whereabouts exactly in the Equality Act 2010 does it mention non-binary, let alone it being a protected characteristic.

Clicking on the glossary page gives a good description of Positive Action, and as you can see immediately below that, a definition of Race, highlighting in bold that it is a Protected Characteristic in the Equality Act 2010.

It says similar for Disability, also highlighting that it is a Protected Characteristic, all good so far.

But, when we look in the glossary at the definition of Sex, it’s a different situation.

I’m sure there was a much easier way to define Sex, and why have they not highlighted in bold stating that Sex is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010? The definition of Sexism then states that women are discriminated against because of our gender? How could they have possibly got that one wrong, the clue is in the name!

But hold on, this isn’t me writing about the usual stuff we basically nowadays just expect to see on any number of LGBT organisations websites. This is a coalition of partners including several women’s organisations who are represented on the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls. They should be representing what is in the best interests on women and ensuring that definitions are an accurate reflection of the law is a basic demand.

The NACWG report today has recommended to

• Incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into Scots Law.

The UN Convention defines discrimination against women as

“…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

On the one hand these organisations are publicly declaring there aim to incorporate UN Sex based rights into Scots Law and then on the other they can’t even include the word sex in the definition of Sexism.

If the Protected Characteristic Sex is ignored then it leads to Guidance documents like these being produced that encourage political parties to not have single sex spaces at their events or venues.

And all of this is coming from members of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls.

So were they actually recommending legislating for more female candidates in political parties? Or was that just hidden in there without it being explicit to its true intentions. I’m sure that strategy has been used before and the public somehow ‘missed’ it until it was too late.


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