Archive for April, 2008

Many thanks to everyone who has taken part in our survey “A Women’s Agenda for the Local Elections May 2008” but …

… if you only voted on the opening question about funding women’s core services and did NOT go to the end of the survey and click on “submit survey” your opinions will not be included.

So please can you find the time to go back to the survey and make sure that you click through to the last page and click on the button to submit your survey.

And for anyone who hasn’t yet taken the survey please add your opinions not only about funding women’s core services but also about the issues that are important to you in your local area.

Survey closes tomorrow – Tuesday 29th at 4pm – many thanks.

To take the survey or validate your earlier answers go to

Many thanks!
Women in London


Scarborough Women’s Group has its inaugural meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Woodlands Drive today 28th April at 7.30pm.

The group is open to all women who are interested in feminism and plans to hold debates, lectures, film evenings and trips as well as to campaign on feminist issues and raise money for Women’s Aid.


Scarborough Friends Meeting House, Quaker Close, Woodlands Drive, Scarborough YO12 5QZ / (01723) 362756

WBG Responses – HM Treasury’s Budget 2008

We welcome the emphasis of this Budget on efforts to end child poverty. However, we are disappointed that you did not take the opportunity to address the acute and chronic funding crisis in sexual and domestic violence services within the women’s voluntary sector. In the last 10 years rape crisis centres have been closing, leaving many women with nowhere to turn. As less than 10% of rapes are reported to the criminal justice system, non-statutory provision represents an essential and trusted source of support for women. While we welcome the announcement of the March 19th of a one-off injection of funds into rape crisis centres, we would have welcomed an acknowledgement of this in the budget, together with a clear commitment to sustainable funding for rape crisis centres and other women-only support services for violence against women. We have set out below the key issues on which we wish to comment in detail.

Download from

The WBG brings together feminist economists, researchers, policy experts and activists to work towards our vision of a gender equal society in which women’s financial independence gives them greater autonomy at work, home, and in civil society.

We work towards this by:
* developing analysis and leading debate on:
* the gender implications of economic policy
* the social dimensions of economic policy
* incorporating a consideration of the unpaid economy into economic policy
* how economic policy might free women and men from stereotypes
* raising awareness and expanding understanding within the UK Ministry of Finance and other policy makers and opinion formers on the gender implications of economic policy
* promoting, encouraging and enabling the use of gender mainstreaming and in particular gender budget analysis
* contributing to and learning from international learning and progress on the applicaion of gender budget analysis

Our two main activities are:
* collating expertise from a range of individuals and organisations in order to influence and inform government policy (see Reports and Responses)
* working with Her Majesty’s Treasury to develop a gender budget for the UK (see Gender Budget Analysis)

Hours: 35 hours per week
Salary: £40,722 – £43,280 – (NJC scp 46 – 49 incl of OLW)

Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre is a well established voluntary organisation that provides a range of services to South Asian families and children in Camden. Funded by Camden Council, Hopscotch plays a key role in the borough contributing to policy and service development in early years, family work, youth, training, employment and enterprise.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and committed individual with proven leadership and management skills to provide strategic direction to meet the aims and objectives of Hopscotch. Building on our achievements to date, you will have excellent communication and negotiation skills, the ability to work with a range of partners and funders and experience of project development, budget management and fundraising.

Knowledge and understanding of the South Asian community, particularly relating to women’s needs would be essential. Fluency in Bengali or Hindi would be an advantage.

For an application pack please contact us between 9.30 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday on 020 73886200 or email:

Closing date for applications: 6th May 2008
Interview date: 14th May 2008

Registered Charity No: 1079574

Hopscotch is committed to staff training and development and is an equal opportunities employer.

Hours: Full Time
Salary: £75k + excellent benefits

Can you lead us as we grow?

YWCA is the leading charity working with the most disadvantaged young women in England and Wales.

This is an exciting opportunity to secure our position as the leading voice on issues affecting young women in England and Wales today. The role demands a strong track record of management at senior level in the voluntary and/or public sector, to carry through the changes we are making to improve and grow our services to young women.

You will have the confidence and credibility to build positive relationships with internal and external stakeholders and the leadership skills necessary to deliver our strategic vision. Your persuasive communication style will engage both policy makers and the media.

More information at For a confidential discussion please contact Philippa Fabry on 0870 190 4317 or Sandra Hamovic on 020 7932 4372

Closing date Tuesday 6 May 2008.

YWCA is a registered charity.

We are working towards equality of opportunity and will consider all applications fairly and on merit.

Volunteer Coordinator needed!

Survive, a women’s charity working against domestic violence in South Glos and Bristol is looking for a dedicated woman* to help us develop our growing volunteers programme. You’ll have an enthusiastic, positive attitude, experience in working with others in an organisational role, ability to commit 6 hours a week and enjoy a challenge! We’ll provide training, expenses and support.

For more info, contact Nickie on 0117 961 2999 or

*Section 7(2) 1975 Sex Discrimination Act applies

Hours: Full Time
Salary: £37 – £40Kpa, + 5% Pension Contribution

Bexley Women’s Aid – Safe homes. Secure relationships.

An exciting opportunity has arisen for an experienced and dynamic manager to lead this well established Charity providing a crucial service in the London Borough of Bexley

The successful candidate will have excellent leadership skills, operational and financial management experience and a proven fundraising track record.

Closing Date: Wednesday 14th May 2008 5pm

Application packs can be obtained by phoning our Administrative Officer on 020 8301 1536 or by email:

Female applicants only, GOQ; Sec 7 (2)(e) Sex Discrimination Act applies.

BWA seeks to promote diversity and welcomes applications from women from all minority ethnic groups.

Hours: 37 hours including some evenings and weekends
Salary: £30,598 NJC SP38

We are looking for an experienced manager with strategic skills, an understanding of domestic abuse issues and experience of a service environment. You will have excellent change management and team building skills as well as the drive to develop our service offering and embed new ways of working.

Haven House provides a range of services, including a refuge, to women, children and young people to support recovery from the impact of domestic abuse. We are undergoing major changes in service development, staffing structure and responsibilities to support this process which will result in two service teams one for women’s services, the other for children and young people.

Skills and experience needed include
– Knowledge of the domestic abuse service sector
– The ability to provide strategic leadership and motivate staff through a period of change
– Business development skills in a service commissioning environment
– Performance management in a small organisation
– Fundraising and marketing acumen
– Ability to work in partnership with the Board

Female applicants only. Section 7.2 of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act applies

Closing Date: 5pm May 2 2008

Information Pack from

Hours: 37 hours including some evenings and weekends
Salary: £25,320 NJC SP31

We are looking for a worker who has operational experience of running Refuge based services for women and of service performance and development. You will have proven experience of managing staff performance in a small organisation and be keen to improve the quality of service delivery.

Haven House provides a range of services, including a refuge, to women, children and young people to support recovery from the impact of domestic abuse. We are undergoing major changes in service development, staffing structure and responsibilities to support this process which will result in two service teams one for women’s services, the other for children and young people.

Skills and experience needed include
* Knowledge and experience of the domestic abuse service sector
* The ability to motivate staff through a period of change
* Service development and monitoring skills
* Performance management in a service team environment
* Ability to work as part of a management team

Female applicants only. Section 7.2 of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act applies

Closing Date:5pm May 2 2008

Information Pack from

Hours: Full Time
Salary: Salary not less than £36,000 p.a

Asha developing women’s resources

The Asha Centre in Worcester was established in its present form in 2002 and has a national reputation for its work with disadvantaged women. The Director will provide leadership to a well qualified and motivated team, and will be responsible for strategic work relating to Centre funding and development.

Applications are invited from women* who must have relevant prior experience.
Application forms may be obtained from 26 London Road, Worcester, telephone 01905 767552 or

Closing date: 12 noon on Friday 9th May 2008.

*The genuine occupational qualification applies under s.7(d) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as amended by the SDA 1985.

Vote Match UK – London Mayoral and Assembly Elections

Unlock Democracy has teamed up with the Netherlands-based Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek (IPP) to launch Vote Match UK. Our first project will be based around the 2008 London Mayoral and Assembly elections. We hope to continue this with future UK elections including 2009’s European Parliament elections and the next general election.

Vote Match is a short quiz that voters can fill in to match their views with the views of the election candidates. In the interests of minimising any unintended biases, the tool is intended to be as transparent as possible:
* Candidates and parties will be asked to provide their own answers based on their own published policy.
* Users can include and/or exclude parties and candidates from the survey as they see fit and add extra weight to those issues which they consider to be important.
* The website does not simply give you an answer – it shows you how the results are calculated.
* Vote Match is not about telling people how to vote and we do not support any political party. Rather, it is about encouraging voters to consider which issues are important and informing them about where the parties and candidates stand.

IPP have been developing Vote Match (known as Stemwijzer in the Netherlands) since 1988, originally in book form. In the last Dutch elections, an estimated 35% of the electorate used their website. As well as the Netherlands, Vote Matches have been developed for the German, French, Bulgarian and Swiss elections (see links sidebar). Surveys in the Netherlands and Germany found that 80% found it to be a trustworthy tool.

Vote Match can also help to boost turnout. Of the people who used the Dutch and German websites and did not intend to vote, 10-15% went on to do so.

If you live in London and want to try out this quiz go to


Unlock Democracy is the UK’s leading campaign for democratic reform. Established in 2007 following the merger of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network, we argue and campaign for a vibrant, inclusive democracy that puts power in the hands of the people.

As well as campaigning, we exist to promote:
* a new culture of informed political interest and responsibility, paving the way for increased enthusiastic public participation
* a pluralist democracy that is responsive to the problems and aspirations of all people, valuing and accommodating difference, diversity and universal human rights. Everyone has the right to live their life in dignity under the law, and free from fear.

Unlock Democracy is a non-aligned organisation, committed to working inclusively across the political spectrum.

We see Vote Match as a valuable tool in achieving these ends.


The premise of Unlock Democracy is simple: far too much power is locked up in the hands of far too few people. In particular, we want to:

Unlock Government: the combination of the inherited powers of feudal monarchs, modern media’s concentration on the Prime Minster and overuse of the party whip has turned Britain in to one of the most centralised countries in Europe. Governments have become locked in a vicious circle of centralising power in an effort to improve public services, only to find this leads to increased dissatisfaction. The quango state – unelected and unaccountable bodies which have a direct impact on ordinary people’s lives – has become a common feature of our political life.

Unlock the Constitution: despite advances such as the creation of the Human Rights Act, a simple majority in the House of Commons can curtail our rights and freedoms by changing our unwritten constitution. At a time of heightened security and fear of terrorism we believe that Britain needs a new constitutional settlement in which basic rights and freedoms are entrenched.

Unlock Political Parties: representative democracy is in long-term decline. However, instead of simply taking the populist stance that polticial parties are part of the problem, we need to recognise the important role they play in connecting the vast majority of voters to our political system. Unlock Democracy will be a critical friend of the political party: while being honest about its limitations, we will embrace its potential for encouraging greater participation. This means reforming the way parties are funded to incentivise meaningful engagement and talking up party activity as a public good rather than some sort of anti social behaviour.

Unlock Decision-making: participation is about more than consultation. Nothing encourages cynicism more than a public body asking for views on an issue that has already been decided upon. The public should be given a real say in issues that concern them, using tools that provide genuine engagement such as Citizens’ Juries. But such tools are expensive and can only involve a limited number of people at any one time. Citizens should be given the right to petition for Parliamentary debates, public inquiries and, where necessary, referendums on issues that concern them.

Unlock Democracy will continue campaign for individual reforms such as a predominantly elected Second Chamber and initiatives such as the Sustainable Communities Act, and will play our part in reskilling the political process by holding events such as People and Politics Day. Ultimately however, we have three main goals in mind:
* A Citizens’ Convention: the UK needs a Constitutional Convention look at how the various tiers of government work together and to consider the entrenchment of basic rights and freedoms. However, such a convention must not be made up of the Great and Good. It needs to be created and agreed by the citizens of the United Kingdom because ultimately it is their freedoms and interests which it will serve and protect.
* Electoral Reform: the first-past-the-post electoral system, still used for the House of Commons and for local elections in England and Wales, is bust. We need a fair, open and proportional voting system that better serves our multi-party system.
* More direct decision making: we need to investigate new ways to enable members of the public to set the political agenda by petitioning for a specific proposal which under certain circumstances might lead to a referendum if there was sufficient demand for one.
* Unlock Democracy will work closely with any individual or organisation which shares our desire to unlock power and to change the nature of British democracy. Furthermore, as a membership organisation, we practice what we preach: by joining both or either organisations you will be given a say in and a vote on what our priorities should be.

(The costs of Vote Match are being underwritten by Unlock Democracy. Unlock Democracy is grateful for a £5,000 grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. to help fund this project. We welcome donations from individuals.)

For more information about Unlock Democracy and our work contact:
Unlock Democracy, 6 Cynthia Street, London N1 9JF.
Tel: 020 7278 4443.

Is there a Women’s Agenda for the Local Elections – should there be?

Women are dying to look perfect.

Literally. Last year’s toll included a music promoter who expired on the operating table while undergoing cosmetic surgery, and a couple of fashion models who starved themselves to death. High profile enough to have made headlines, these women may represent just a fast glimpse of the beauty industry’s dark lining.

But they have no one but themselves to blame for the risky lifestyle choices they made in pursuit of looking good. Or do they?

The U.K. Periodical Publishers Association has launched an inquiry into the pervasive practice of digitally enhancing photographs. The initiative was inspired by a report commissioned by the British Fashion Council into the industry’s regrettable influence on women’s body image. And the council’s report? It was prompted by public outrage over the death of the models and the destructive definition of ideal femininity perpetuated by fashion media.

It should be an old story. Women’s groups have been protesting unattainable beauty standards for decades. Here in Canada, Media Watch spent more than 25 years conducting research, delivering educational seminars, meeting with regulators and mobilizing consumers around the need for more responsible media portrayals.

Despite such activism, and greater public awareness, some aspects of the situation have gotten worse, not better. Magazine cover stories sensationalize celebrity crimes against body image every week; reality TV shows regularly invent new ways to exploit women’s insecurities; and the digital distortion of Photo-shopped images fuels exponential growth in cosmetic surgery procedures, despite the health risks attached to many.

So the move by British magazine publishers to explore the development of an ethics code on retouching is long overdue. Why shouldn’t magazines be held to the same ethical standards that newspapers follow? Consumers have a right to expect authenticity from the photos they disseminate. If we can’t trust that the images we’re looking at reflect reality, why should we credit the words that appear alongside them with any greater truth?

An even more compelling case can be made for the images that appear in ads. When cosmetic companies claim that their lotions and creams will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite, it’s reasonable to expect that the photographs purporting to illustrate such results have not been altered. How is “truth in advertising” served when models promoting dietary aides and foundation makeup have achieved their slim silhouettes and flawless complexions with the help of an airbrush artist?

The increasingly popular trend among supermarket tabloids to feature undoctored images of makeup-free celebrities looking shockingly ordinary offers the welcome relief of a little Schadenfreude – being reminded that not even Halle Berry looks like Halle Berry without digital enhancement reassures us about our own imperfections. And the staggering success of Dove’s campaign for “real beauty” underscores the appeal of authentic imagery.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. A growing body of research documents the damage done by increasingly unattainable physical ideals on the self-esteem of young girls and adult women alike. The punishing comparisons with perfection help to trigger anorexia in those predisposed to it, and health professionals are clear that commercial media images are significant contributing factors to depression, bulimia and the skyrocketing increase in cosmetic surgery procedures.

The good news is that avoiding exposure to such imagery can have a remarkably positive impact on the way women feel about themselves. And when people become more aware of this, they’re increasingly likely to either press for the kind of responsibility being considered in the U.K., or to stop buying the magazines entirely.

Consider the views of the fashion industry’s most sought-after target market. Last year, with the professional assistance of EKOS Research, Media Watch – recently renamed Media Action/Action Media – conducted focus groups with young women from across Canada who were asked their impressions of the dominant image of women in popular media.

“Skinny,” “sleazy” and “stupid” were the representative adjectives volunteered by the 14- to 24-year-olds who were canvassed in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. All the young women expressed universal frustration with pervasive images of “flawless” female bodies (read slim and large breasted), and the disproportionate attention seemingly paid to those women eager to minimize the amount of fabric between their skin and the camera.

While current media practices unfortunately suggest that Media Action remains as relevant today as it was 25 years ago, the savvy cynicism and growing trend among young women to create their own alternative media content is fuelling renewed activism and – hopefully – much needed change.

PPA working group on digital enhancements

University of York – 30th May 2007

The Centre for Women’s Studies have organised this one-day conference to discuss current debates and research in the field of violence against women. The conference will cover issues relating to domestic violence, rape in war and war crimes, men and violence and representation of violence.

Plenary discussions will include:
• Three decades of well founded fear: where are we now in measuring violence against women
• Gender violence and conflict: revisiting violence and the social control of women
• Exploring emotion work and domestically abusive relationships
• Adjudicating sexual violence in armed conflict: The international criminal court
• Studying media in the context of violence against women

Confirmed speakers include: Prof Catherine Donovan, Prof Jill Radford, Prof. Liz Kelly, Prof. Jeff Hearn, Prof. Marianne Hester and Julie Bindel (journalist and activist)

For further information including detailed programme and costs go to

Travellers who have suffered domestic violence are being asked if they would prefer a women’s refuge in a caravan rather than a building, it emerged today.

A branch of the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid is looking at providing a trailer or chalet-style facility in the garden of an existing refuge to improve services for travellers and gypsies.

It has set up an online survey to gather travellers’ views about the proposals.

The survey is funded by the Supporting People initiative run by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The plan, revealed in the national traveller, gypsy and Roma magazine Travellers’ Times, is also examining whether more women from the community should be encouraged to work with groups like Women’s Aid.

One traveller who has suffered domestic violence, identified only as “Annie”, told the magazine: “If I’d never lived in a house in the first place, I would not want to go into a house refuge.”

The Women’s Aid survey asks: “Would you want to stay in a refuge that had a secure mobile home/caravan in the garden for a gypsy/traveller woman and her children?”

It adds: “This survey is for gypsy/traveller women that have experienced domestic violence and may have used support services. It has been created to try to address the fact that traveller women may not be getting the service that they require or which meets their cultural needs.”

The plan has been put forward by West Mercia’s branch of Women’s Aid. Spokeswoman Sharne Maher said: “On average a woman will go through 12 agencies before finding a refuge. A woman from an ethnic minority background will have to work her way through about 17. We worry that some women simply give up trying.”

* Cost of violence to women estimated at £40bn a year
* Government ‘should make effort to change attitudes’

The British public gives more to a Devon-based donkey sanctuary than the most prominent charities trying to combat violence and abuse against women, a report released today by a leading philanthropy watchdog reveals.

New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) has calculated that more than 7 million women have been affected by domestic violence but found that Refuge, the Women’s Aid Federation and Eaves Housing for Women have a combined annual income of just £17m. By contrast the Donkey Sanctuary, which has looked after 12,000 donkeys, received £20m in 2006.

NPC estimates the cost to society of domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage, trafficking and honour crimes has reached £40bn a year – greater than the country’s defence budget.

“As a society we are not spending enough on this issue whether through charities or the government,” said Justine Järvinen, the author of the report. “Violence against women appears regularly as the subject of media reports and in the storylines of soap operas but rarely does it come up in normal conversation, which suggests there is a stigma around it. The truth is it is very common.”

Every year 1.5 million women experience domestic abuse at least once, 800,000 are sexually assaulted and 100,000 raped, the report states. More than one in four women has experienced at least one incident of domestic violence by a current or former partner, which means 7.4 million women in the UK have suffered domestic abuse, according to government figures.

The NPC was established by former executives of Goldman Sachs to analyse the effectiveness of charities for wealthy donors and has calculated the cost of this abuse at £40bn a year. This is made up of £10bn for the cost of lost economic output caused by abuse as well as the police work, court cases and psychological and physical healthcare arising from the abuse. Victims may also place greater demands on housing and benefit budgets if they have to move away, often with children, from a shared home with the abuser.

NPC has calculated the emotional cost of abuse of women is £30bn a year, using accepted measures devised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence for translating emotional cost into financial cost. Sexual violence accounts for £26bn of the cost with domestic violence accounting for £20bn.

Prostitution, trafficking and violence against black and ethnic minority women accounts for the rest. “The government has a responsibility to change attitudes and prevent abuse from happening in the first place,” said Järvinen. “A third of men think that domestic violence is acceptable if their partner has been nagging them.”

Today’s report references an ICM poll which found that more people would call the police if someone was mistreating their dog than if someone was mistreating their partner. NPC is calling for concerted government action to tackle violence against women and is urging charitable donors to divert more to non-governmental organisations in the sector.

It said that the 200 largest charities which provide services for abused women or campaign to prevent abuse have a combined annual income of £97m. That compares with £110m for the RSPCA, £149m for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and £83m for the Royal Opera House.

* Animal charities and rape crisis centres
* A cause well worth funding – The impact of domestic violence on black and minority ethnic women may be worse than for other women

Under current legislation, people who travel to Britain on marriage visas remain completely financially dependent on their partners for the first two years.


Anita’s story and the callous immigration rule that trapped her

At first glance Anita Jain looks and acts just like any other bright and confident 28-year-old woman. It’s only when she pulls back her sleeves to reveal the deep, angry scars running along her wrists that you realise Anita’s recent past has been anything but plain sailing.

For two years her husband beat her horrendously. So bad was the abuse that she was regularly hospitalised – on one occasion a nurse even found a footprint in the small of her back.

Helping any vulnerable woman escape from such a situation is depressingly difficult. But a particularly callous British immigration law means that, for people like Anita, finding a way out is even harder.

The problem is that although Anita, an Indian national, had come to Britain perfectly legally and was married to a British citizen she was forbidden from accessing any public money during her first two years in the country.

Story continues at—o.html


‘He Made Me Feel So Very Afraid’

When Jennifer moved to Grimsby to be with her British husband, she was hopeful about beginning a new future, with a new man, in a new home.

She often wondered if she was doing the right thing by leaving behind her friends and family in Africa, but pushed aside her reservations when she saw how eager her partner was to share his life with her and her daughter.

Several years later, and the optimism of those early days is replaced with the pessimism of bitter experience.

“There’s always regrets in life, but that’s how you learn,” said Jennifer. “Now, I’m saying ‘no’ to relationships forever. Some people are probably lucky, but I just think ‘no more.'”

To begin with, says Jennifer – a quiet and dignified woman in her 30s – her husband was nice and treated her well.

However, not long after moving to the town, he told her that British people are racist and would not like the fact that he had married a black woman.

From the beginning, Jennifer felt trapped. She was never allowed a key to the house, remained locked indoors all day, and had no access to money, food or clothing – unless it was provided by her husband.

He even insisted that they walk her daughter to school together rather than let her out of his sight for a minute.

She tried applying for jobs, but her husband posted the applications and potential employers mysteriously failed to respond.

Story continues at

Home Office Appeals: Dubious Grounds

Asylum Aid has recently represented two appeal cases that were both successful in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) court of appeal but then contested and appealed by the Home Office. These cases both highlight significant issues regarding the types of cases the Home Office are actively pursuing to appeal and the grounds on which the courts are granting the Home Office further appeals.

For both cases, the Immigration Judges concluded after the Home Office appeal that “the original Tribunal did not make a material error of law and the original determination …shall stand”. Moreover, this process raises major concerns in relation to the emotional and psychological impact this has on appellants whose successful appeals are contested by the Home Office.

Case A – Appellant A is a single young female, with no family, who was a minor at the time of her appeal. Her asylum claim was based on religious persecution in India.

Case B – Case B concerns a mother and her child from Kenya who are both HIV positive.

This article will briefly outline two recent Asylum Aid cases. Both cases are very different however raise interesting issues regarding the interpretation of law. This article will discuss the Home Office appeal grounds, legal arguments used to maintain the original decision and key areas of concern.

The full report is in women’s asylum news – refugee women’s resource project @ asylumaid – issue number 74 – April 2008

The issue also includes:
* The Independent Asylum Commission launches interim findings
* Illegal detention results in compensation
* Returns to Zimbabwe
* Iraq Country Report 2008: Amplifying the Voices of Women in Iraq
* Afghanistan: Rise in violence against women
* Pakistan: Domestic violence
* Kenya: Displaced women still face threat of sexual violence
* ‘Gender Based Sexual Violence against Teenage Girls in the Middle East: A comparative situation analysis of honour violence, early marriages and sexual abuse in Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Yemen’. Save the Children, Sweden
* DRC: Rape continues to go unpunished
* “I am the lowest end of all”: Rural women with HIV face human rights abuses in South Africa
* ‘UNHCR Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls’
* ‘Through the Eyes of a Child: Refugee Children speak about violence – A report on participatory assessment carried out with refugee and returned children in Southern Africa 2005-2007’ UNHCR

Asylum Rights Watch Update

In June 2007 Asylum Aid launched its Asylum Rights Watch survey in order to collect testimonies of asylum seekers’ in the UK. The web-based survey allows people to share their experiences of the UK’s asylum system with us.

A summary report of the submissions received by the Asylum Rights Watch project can be accessed at

From the information gathered we also compiled a supplementary submission to the Independent Asylum Commission

Asylum Rights Watch is an ongoing project and we are continually seeking information about your experiences of the asylum system in the UK. Visitors can make as many submissions as they like and we welcome further contributions.

The Asylum Rights Watch page is accessible from our homepage: Any individual who has experiences of the UK’s treatment of asylum seekers is encouraged to use the Asylum Rights Watch survey. We are particularly keen to hear from those who may come into contact with the asylum system through their work, such as healthcare professionals, teachers and social workers.

The information we receive will add to evidence we gather from our own casework services, and will help us to document the effects of recent asylum policies. This information will be used to strengthen our existing lobbying, research and campaigns work and identify priorities for future work.

All submissions sent before the end of April 2008 will be considered for a dossier of evidence that is being compiled and will be launched in May 2008.

For more information about Asylum Rights Watch, or if you would like to help publicise this project, please contact:

Asylum Aid provides free legal advice and representation to asylum-seekers and refugees, and campaigns for their rights. We rely on the generosity of individuals to help us continue our work. Your support would be greatly appreciated. A gift of just £5 each month could support our free legal advice line. Text Box: Any views expressed in this publication are those of the authors. Any legal information in this bulletin is intended as a general guide only, and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. Any contributions from, or references to, external sources (including website links), agencies or individuals do not necessarily reflect the views of Asylum Aid nor receive our endorsement.

All RWRP/ Asylum Aid publications are available at:

Please forward any information that you would like to include in the next edition of WAN to by the 2nd May 2008.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is calling for improved legislation governing the area of underage sex.

The call follows the acquittal yesterday of a 27-year-old man who had consensual sex with a 13-year-old girl seven years ago.

The jury in the case accepted the man’s defence that he was not aware the girl was under the legal age of consent and took less than an hour to return a not-guilty verdict.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says legislation in this area is still flawed because of the Government’s rushed attempts to fix the situation when the statutory-rape laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court two years ago.

That ruling was made because the law did not allow defendants to argue that they genuinely believed the victim was over the age of consent.

Gardai massaging crime statistics for years, new CSO report shows
… The findings also confirm what women’s groups have been saying for years — that less than one-in-10 rape cases proceed to the point of a conviction. …

* Report backs scrapping of free nursery places at three and four to fund universal allowance
* Mothers should be paid to stay at home if they want to when their children are young, according to a report launched by the Conservatives’ shadow minister for the family.

State help for families has been channelled under Labour into tax credits to pay for nurseries and childminders but what most mothers want is to work part-time or not at all, particularly when their children are under five, the controversial review by two leading academics for the think-tank Policy Exchange argues.

It argues mothers should be paid an allowance to spend either on formal childcare such as nurseries, informal care like grandparents helping out, or on subsidising a parent to stay at home. It argues the current free nursery places for three- and four-year-olds could be scrapped to fund the new allowance.

Worries about their children’s welfare are a bigger deterrent to women working than childcare costs, the report concludes, suggesting that making childcare cheaper will not solve their dilemma.

Maria Miller, the shadow family minister who will help launch the report, said she would study the findings closely. She admitted such a universal care allowance could be expensive, but added: ‘Support for families in the first three years is really still a neglected area of policy: great strides have been made in some areas but many women are still feeling that they have got really little choice in how they structure their family’s life.’

The findings will reopen passionate debate between stay-at-home and working mothers, and have attracted interest from senior Tories who argue they should be promoting mothers’ freedom to raise their families as they wish.

The National Day Nurseries’ Association, however, warned yesterday that a universal care allowance would be a ‘risky prospect’ leading parents into low quality, unregulated childcare by untrained people rather than settings that helped a child develop. Ministers have also argued that allowing tax credits to be spent on care by grandparents would be open to fraud.

The Policy Exchange report lambastes government for skewing family policy towards getting women out to work and cherry picking evidence which suits them, rather than accepting that many mothers would actively prefer to be at home – and that where parents do work, informal care like grandparents is often preferred to nurseries or childminders.

Research carried out by the Women’s Unit at the Cabinet Office in 1999 showed that ‘one third of women believed home and family were women’s main focus in life and that women should not try to combine a career and children’, the report notes – even though two thirds thought a job was a woman’s best route to independence.

It found that if money were no object, only 5 per cent of mothers would still work full-time, while three-quarters would prefer a part-time job and the rest would not work at all.

Yet ministers ‘used the findings selectively to support predetermined policy positions – in particular policies promoting paid work as women’s central life activity’, the report concludes.

The top three reasons cited by mothers for not working, in another survey commissioned from academics by the then Department for Education and Skills, were wanting to stay with their children, thinking the children were too young or that they would suffer if the mother worked. Only 10 per cent said it was because ‘I cannot afford quality childcare’, the report argues, concluding that affordability of childcare is ‘rarely the main problem for parents … The crucial factor is parental values.’

Miller admitted, however, that a package enabling all mothers to stay at home could be prohibitively expensive. ‘All too often people talk about women having a choice but in actual fact many families don’t have the choice: financial necessity means that they have to go back to work. It’s very difficult to envisage the programme that is going to take away that financial necessity for large numbers of people.

‘But what is exciting about the Policy Exchange report is that they are really questioning hard this overcentralised approach. They are also questioning this spending on subsidised childcare without recognising the contribution made by those who decide to take more time out.’

Parents’ childcare preferences not being met
Leading thinktank proposes universal childcare allowance

Parents in Britain still pay 70 per cent of their childcare costs compared to the European average of 30 per cent. This is in spite of a decade of intensive reform and total spending of £17 billion from 1997 to 2006 on services for young children. Nevertheless, according to ‘Little Britons’, a comprehensive new report into childcare choice for the leading thinktank Policy Exchange, parents’ preferences for childcare are not being met by the options currently available. The Government’s basic aim has been to encourage as many mothers as possible into paid work – and for children to be placed in formal childcare settings – but women would actually prefer, in many cases, for their children to be cared for in their own homes, the report concludes.

* Full Report
* Executive Summary