Conservative MP Philip Davies has claimed that “feminist zealots” exaggerate gender inequalities in the UK, which Leader of The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) Sophie Walker said “was staggering to hear”.
Walker spoke of the “facts” presented by the Tory MP at the International Conference on Men’s Issues, organised by Justice 4 Men and Boys.
In his speech, which he called “the justice gender gap”, Davies argued that the British justice system favoured women and discriminated against men: “In this day and age the feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it. They fight for their version of equality on all the things that suit women – but are very quick to point out that women need special protections and treatment on other things.”
“I don’t believe there’s an issue between men and women. The problem is being stirred up by those who can be described as militant feminists and the politically correct males who pander to this nonsense.”
He added: “It seems to me that this has led to an ‘equality but only when it suits’ agenda that applies to women. The drive for women to have so-called equality on all the things that suit the politically correct agenda but not other things that don’t is of increasing concern to me.”
“For example, we hear plenty about increasing the numbers of women on company boards and female representation in parliament; however, there’s a deafening silence when it comes to increasing the number of men who have custody of their children or who have careers as midwives. In fact, generally there seems to be a deafening silence on all the benefits women have compared to men.”
“Many women use their children as a stick to beat the father with, either because they’re bitter about the failed relationship, for financial reasons, or because they’ve moved on and it’s easier for them if their new partner takes on the role of father to their children,” said Davies.
Discussing these comments and drawing attention to several other statements made by Davies during the speech Walker said: “It’s staggering to hear an elected MP – and one who serves on the Commons’ Justice Committee – set out claims that demonstrate so little understanding of the facts of our justice system. His assertion that the UK justice system shows ‘clear discrimination against men, and certainly not the other way round’ is astoundingly ill-informed.”
“Davies’ case for what he calls the ‘Justice Gender Gap’ overlooks clear evidence to the contrary. The UK’s prison population is largely made up of men because women are significantly less likely to commit the kind of violent offences that attract custodial sentences.”
Walker explained that in the UK women entering prison are more likely to have been imprisoned for non-violent offences, more likely to have been sent to prison for their first offence, and much more likely to be both victims of crime as well as offenders. She also said that black and minority ethnic women are also disproportionately more likely to be imprisoned.
She said: “Crucially, women in prison are very often themselves survivors of serious crime and sustained abuse, and we know that prosecution rates for sexual violence against women and girls are depressingly low,” said Walker.
“53% of female prisoners in the UK have experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.”
Walker did, however, agree with Davies who noted that access to justice is a gendered problem: “But it’s clear the odds are stacked against women. Cuts to legal aid leave women – who are far more likely than men to be in low-paying jobs – with no recourse to affordable justice.
“Migrant women in particular are facing dual discrimination in a justice system that relies on immigration status, which is often dependent on a woman’s partner, to claim recourse to public funds.”
WEP are calling for policy change surrounding women seeking justice in the UK, which includes unconscious bias training for all police, magistrates, judges and jurors to address ingrained attitudes towards women who are victims of sexually violent crimes.
The Party is also set out plans for the restoration of legal aid for all cases involving domestic violence, and for the provision of specialist counselling and support for abused partners.
According to Walker Davies also denied that violence against women and girls in the UK is a problem: “We agree that gender-based violence should not be treated as a special problem here – it is a global epidemic,” she said.
“It is also puzzling to hear Davies decry a ‘deafening silence’ from feminists on men having custody of their children, or having careers as midwives. One of our party’s core objectives is equal parenting and caregiving. In addition we have clear policy commitments to boosting the numbers of men in caring industries, and ensuring fathers have access to full parental leave. Perhaps Philip Davies should read up on the Women’s Equality Party’s policies, as well as those around access to justice set out by his Government. We feel sure he’ll learn an awful lot.”