A bad week for equality
November 20, 2012 7 Comments
The Church of England’s complex voting system has led to a decision that women can’t become bishops. This is perplexing to an outsider. If a woman can be a priest, why can’t she make other people priests? A bigger issue for democracy is the political impact of this decision at the heart of the UK Government. Today’s vote affects policy-making way beyond the Church.
26 seats in the House of Lords are reserved for Church of England Bishops. They will now continue to be men-only roles for the foreseeable future. Figures from January 2011 show that 181 (21.7%) out of 833 members of the House of Lords are women, so this reinforcement of gender imbalance is very significant.
Information provided by ‘Counting Women In’ shows the scale of gender inequality in government. Their statistics show that women hold 22 out of 122 of ministerial roles in the House of Commons. Nine Government departments are male only decision-making domains.
During the same week that the Church of England made its decision about Bishops, the Prime Minister announced the axing of equality impact assessments that the previous government had introduced to make sure that officials took account of disability, gender and race in their decision-making.
David Cameron said, “We have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making the policy. We don’t need all this extra tick-box stuff.” How representative are these ‘smart people’? The all-white cabinet is made up of 19 men and 4 women, with 18 millionaires. 60% of the women in cabinet were sacked during the last reshuffle.
The WEA is non-party political but equality and democracy are central to our recently refreshed vision: “A better world – equal, democratic and just; through adult education the WEA challenges and inspires individuals, communities and society.”
Whatever your views on politics or religion, thoughtful consideration of these issues and their impact on society has a place in community-based adult education.
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