Have You Voted For An Equal Parliament?

General Election 2015: Have You Voted For An Equal Parliament?

gender-equality

by Contributor |
Published on

By now most of us have caste our votes - and, come tomorrow morning, we'll know more about what could be in store for the next five years. But what will be next for women in parliament?

Gender inequality has long plagued the Houses that run our country. Pre-election, there were just 148 women with seats - with men outnumbering women 3:1. In total, there were more male MPs in Parliament than there has ever been female MPs historically, put together.

Tomorrow, that situation is predicted to change. Some believe that there could be the highest intake of female MPs since the all-female shortlists of Blair's 1997 election brought in 60. But, for gender equality in government as a whole, this is just the tip of the iceberg. One group eagerly awaiting the results are 50:50 Parliament, a movement campaigning for fair representation of women in government, who will be counting in the number of women elected to Westminster, on a cross-party basis.

And it's important that we take note of their results. The chronic under-representation of women in Parliament is a historic problem that needs to be addressed: there are 32 million women in the UK. Women make up 51% of the population, 51% of the brainpower, of the experience and talent. For female MPs to make up just 23% of the voices heard in Parliament, it equates to a democratic deficit - moreover, it's a democratic disgrace.

Representation shapes policies and the policies affect women. If there were more women in government the campaign for better Equal Pay legislation might not have been such a battle. We might not need so many petitions concerning issues that affect women, such as Tax on Tampons or Name Equality. Whether its FGM, abortion, the NHS, housing or the budget, women's voices have a right to be heard.

Currently, the UK is way down the International league table in terms of women in power. There are 70 countries which have proportionally more women in their Parliaments - Sweden is 44%, South Africa 41% and Spain 41%. Clearly, a more balanced Parliament is not an impossible dream.

Only 325 female MPs from a population of 32 million are needed to achieve equality in the House of Commons - 177 more than were elected last time. On average over the last 3 elections there have been 8 extra women arriving at Westminster, at which rate it will take over 100 years to get parity in Parliament.

pic: 50:50 Parliament
pic: 50:50 Parliament

The 50:50 Parliament campaign is asking Parliament to debate and take action to solve this historic problem. Their vision is a Parliament where men and women legislate the laws of our land together in roughly equal numbers, building a better and more balanced society for everyone.

They have been called the 21st Century Suffragettes - and, fittingly, count Helen Pankhurst, the great-great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst as a supporter. 'I think they were fighting a much bigger cause than ours,' says Frances Scott, 50:50 Parliament founder, 'but I feel like we're trying to finish the job.'

It's going to take time, but you can help. As well as using your vote today, you can pledge your support to equal representation in Parliament by signing this petition. Because, 100 years is too long to wait.

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