Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Rape conviction postcode lottery follow-up

Police still dismiss rape victims

We know that currently in nearly three-quarters of all reported rapes, the perpetrator is never charged and the case isn't referred to the CPS. The reasons are numerous and have been debated in various arenas over the past few years. However, in a recent interview, Dave Gee, rape adviser to Acpo and the Home Office, admitted that Britain's appalling conviction rates were often due to poor evidence-gathering and negative mindsets, which he said too often led to cases being "undermined rather than built up".

Police forces across the UK and Wales have all been allocated "rape champions" to oversee the roll-out of their sexual violence action plans, to implement good practice guidelines and to tackle the "negative mindsets" within their forces. Along with specially trained officers, they have received sexual violence training and are part of the initiative that we have been assured will help to address the culture of disbelief that we know, from what women tell us, still exists. However, at the Home Office violence against women consultation in the east of England in May, a rape champion for one of the police forces in the east of England stated openly that "everyone knows most women and girls who report rape can't be believed".

It is truly concerning that rape champions, who oversee the training and work of the specially trained sexual offences officers in police forces, hold these views. It has long been acknowledged by Acpo that miscounting rape statistics – most specifically recording women's withdrawal from the process as a false allegation – has not helped to change the police's wrong assumptions that at least 25% of women reporting rape won't be telling the truth, when in reality that figure is no more than for any other crime.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

'Postcode lottery' for rape convictions in the UK

Rape 'postcode lottery' still exists in UK

The Fawcett Society has said there is a growing gap in rape conviction rates between different police forces across the country.

In some areas you are 11 times more likely to secure a conviction than in others, according the the group's report.

In 2007, nearly 20% of rape accusations in Cleveland resulted in guilty verdicts, compared to just 1 in 60 in Dorset.

The report also claims that in 16 out of 42 police force areas in the UK, rape conviction rates fell "worryingly" between 2006 and 2007.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Schools steering girls towards gendered careers

Dated attitudes towards gender 'holding schoolgirls back'

The women's rights movement has encouraged women to compete harder and they are now more likely to go to university, get good degrees and become doctors. But girls from working-class backgrounds have been left behind, according to the research, published today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Trevor Phillips, the chair of the commission, said attitudes in some schools were stuck in the mid-20th century. The research, based on interviews with 1,000 14- to 18-year-olds, found white working-class girls were four times as likely as white middle-class girls to work in childcare.

Phillips said: "The majority of young women who come from working-class backgrounds believe they will fail. They believe the best they can do is to be a hairdresser or work in one of the three Cs: catering, childcare or cleaning. These are proper careers and I don't want to do them down. The problem is we have a society where young girls who aren't from well-off professional families can't see themselves as successful in anything but a limited range of jobs.

"Within education and careers services, the expectations for these girls are pretty low. Even well-meaning teachers and careers advisers are saying … 'you could be a very good hairdresser'. They should be saying, 'why don't you want to be a doctor or lawyer?' It's wrong if girls are told they can only do certain things."

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Women are all programmed mothers

Why new dads don't always love their baby

A growing number of fathers are breaking with convention and speaking out about how a new baby does not always bring great joy. "I wrote my book because of this persistent and disturbing gap between what I was meant to feel and what I actually felt," said Michael Lewis, author of Home Game, An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, published this week.

"I expected to feel overcome with joy, while instead I often felt only puzzled. I was expected to feel worried when I often felt indifferent. I was expected to feel fascinated when I actually felt bored.

"For a while I went around feeling guilty all the time, but then I realised that all around me fathers were pretending to do one thing and feel one way, when in fact they were doing and feeling all sorts of other things, and then engaging afterwards in what amounted to an extended cover-up.

"Fatherhood can be demoralising. I usually wind up the day curled in a little ball of fatigue, drowning in self-pity."

Now. I am all in favour of men discussing fatherhood realistically, breaking down assumptions of instant joy, tenderness and expertise from the moment of birth to paint a more accurate picture that other men will hopefully benefit from reading.

Just as long as they don't build up assumptions of instant joy, tenderness and expertise from the moment of birth in their female partners in order to do so.

Maternal love may be instinctive, but paternal love is learnt behaviour. And here is the central mystery of fatherhood: how does a man's resentment of this... thing that lands in his life and instantly disrupts every aspect of it for the apparent worse turn into love?


"It's different for women," he said. "When my son was a minute old, my wife held him up and asked, 'Don't you love him so much?' I didn't really understand how she could ask such a thing. That purple squirming howler? 'He seems nice,' I said. Men, I think, need to be won over."


"New mums are better at parenting than new dads, but there's a reason why: they are programmed to mother," he said. "There is a mega-mother industrial complex made up of thousands of magazines, books, classes and TV shows that instruct women on how to raise the perfect child.

"Across the gender aisle, fathers are usually clueless about what to do. There are no special father TV shows, zero Maxim articles on '9 simple cures for nappy rash', and certainly no practice-dad toys like dolls," he said.

"A man doesn't have much of a foundation in fathering. It's more on-the-job training - and it starts the day he becomes a father."

Wait, what? What about the many women to whom the 'mega-mother industrial complex made up of thousands of magazines, books, classes and TV shows' provides a large amount of pressure to a) have children in the first place and b) be the perfect mother when they do? What about the women who do have children then feel exactly the same as the men quoted in this article? To the fact that mothers and fathers should be a team who can provide support for each other as they both undergo this 'on-the-job training' (because really, a woman could watch all the TV shows, take all the classes, read all the magazines and still not be any 'better' a mother than the woman next to her in the maternity ward, not to mention the fact that there's nothing to stop men picking up the same magazines, watching the same shows and taking classes with their partners if they think it would help)?

I am all in favour of bringing attention to the lack of resources preparing men for fatherhood and the social assumptions that presents dolls and childcare toys as 'not for boys' - but let's not pretend that these pressures provide women with advantages. Women and men are both socially programmed to believe that women are natural mothers. Making up your own barriers between maternity and paternity prevents a lot of communication that could go on between those parents, mothers or fathers, who do not feel natural affection for their children.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Qualified candidate offered job

Woman picked as cricket director

The first female cricket director at a private school in England has been appointed in Brighton.

Sussex women's captain Alexia Walker will oversee training programmes and coaching at Brighton College.

Ms Walker has been cricket performance manager at Loughborough University for the past four years.

She also captains the England Women's Academy team, which is currently competing in a three-match series against Pakistan.

A spokesperson for the school said: "Brighton College has been at the forefront of women's cricket since allowing girls to play alongside boys in the First XI if they were judged to be sufficiently capable, despite vocal criticism from Robin Marlar, incoming president of MCC, in 2005."

Emphasis mine, because the fact that this is apparently considered something to be proud of is ridiculous, and the 'if they were judged sufficiently capable' is just offensive; surely nobody's suggesting that a girl should play alongside boys in the First XI if she is not sufficiently capable? Why the implication that she somehow needs more judgement than a male peer, who is somehow automatically more qualified? I'm not a fan of comparing prejudices, but seriously, would that be tacked on to the same decree regarding non-white, non-heterosexual or non-middle class boys? In 2005?

That one statement aside though, the headline itself highlights the gender inequality at work here, as it would otherwise be "Experienced teacher offered position at school" which isn't news at all. When women getting typically male-dominated jobs is no longer news, then maybe we can count ourselves one step closer to gender equality. 

Friday, 5 June 2009

Recession being used as an excuse to get rid of women on maternity leave

A bonus for today, because this is important:

Employers 'targeting pregnant women for redundancy'

The Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace has identified a sharp increase in women consulting lawyers or calling helplines because their jobs have been terminated during maternity leave or pregnancy.

"It appears that some employers are using the recession as an excuse to break the law on discrimination," the alliance warned yesterday. Campaigners said that the "long-term consequences of job loss as a result of pregnancy or maternity leave jeopardise women's financial security for their whole lives".


Campaigners are concerned that attitudes towards maternity rights have hardened among many employers whose businesses are struggling in the economic downturn. The alliance believes that new mothers will be seen as "fair game" for dismissal during the recession, and cites remarks by Sir Alan Sugar as evidence of a new hostility in the business community to enhanced maternity rights. Sugar said: "We have maternity laws where people are entitled to have too much. Everything has gone too far."

While almost any man is entitled to have as many children as he likes without having to physically go through childbirth and without being expected to give significant amounts of his time to any of them as long as he financially supports them. (I'm not saying this is the ideal situation, or that most men even want it that way, just that these are the limits of biology and expectations of society.) Who exactly is "entitled to have too much" here"? 

Some personal experiences with this form of discrimination that illustrate how companies put women coming back from maternity leave between a rock and a hard place in order to force them to bow out of a job without doing anything clearly illegal:

About two weeks before my start date I was called in to the office and they told me a lot of people were being made redundant and that I should think about taking redundancy now, before I formally went part-time, so that the terms would be better. They gave me the impression that if I did go back I would probably be made redundant anyway, and made me feel like I had no choice. After such a long time away from the office, I was feeling very vulnerable anyway, so I agreed. That was six months ago, and no one else from the team has been made redundant.

Female pensioners worth less on divorce.

Divorce over 60 can be costly for women

Each year more than 13,000 people aged over 60 divorce, but the financial effects can leave them substantially worse off – in particular woman.

Female pensioner divorcees can stand to lose on average £18,200 in lifetime income after a split.

Upon divorce a woman's pension income will fall six per cent from £254 a week to £240 a week.

So women are paid less when they work, take more time off for their families, may not even have a pension when they retire due to the nature of their employment or lack thereof - is this seeming slightly skewed?