Several reasons why women are right to fear Brexit

A new report by the human rights watchdog warned that Brexit would affect women's rights. From work legislation to economic downturn, women stand the most to lose from the divorce.

The Equality and Human Rights Commissions (EHRC) latest report on gender equality has sent out a serious warning about the risks that a withdrawal from the European Union could bring to women’s rights in Britain. 

Of particular concern is the loss of many privileges enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was left out of the Conservative Brexit bill.

The watchdog also warned about specific instances where the EU promoted and invested in anti-discrimination projects across Britain, which would end once the final deal is signed with Brussels. Wales, for instance, has benefitted from a £370 million a year fund from the EU that specifically targeted the gender pay gap in the nation.

The CEO of the Best for Britain campaign, Eloise Todd, commented on the findings saying: 

“This dire warning from the equalities watchdog is as shocking as it is infuriating. It is not acceptable that, after all the years of building up a robust structure for protecting women’s rights, we find ourselves stripped of this source of strength by Brexit.

“The Brexit extremists might think it, but leaving the European Union is not worth hacking away at important rights and support mechanisms. I know that and the people of this country know that. The only fair thing to do is to put the Government’s deal to a people’s vote with an option to stay in the EU.”

The warning also follows the scandal that took over Westminster last week, when Conservative chief whip Julian Smith allegedly instructed Brandon Lewis MP to vote while he was “paired” with Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson.

According to parliamentary convention MPs from opposite sides of the House get paired so one side can abstain from voting when the other is absent in case of illness, travel or maternity. Swinson, who is currently on maternity leave, could not take part in a crunch Brexit vote and was paired with Lewis, but the Conservative chairman was counted in the vote regardless.

The breach of protocol worked as a red flag to politicians and campaigners fairing that a Tory Brexit will sverely undermine the rights of women in Britain.

Here are some of the reasons why women are seriously worried about Brexit:

1. British law does not include a free-standing right to non-discrimination

While Britain has a series of acts pertaining to individual types of discrimination, there’s no all encompassing law.

2. The Equality Act could be diluted imminently

The Equality Act of 2010 implements anti-discriminatory provisions originally set by four EU Equal Treatment Directives. Brexit would bring a need to update the Act and the risks that would entail.

3. Same could be said about work protections for women

Much of the legislation protecting equality and workplace rights that women benefit today came from, or was strengthened through, EU law. For now these are being safeguarded through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, it but they are vulnerable to change by a future governments.

4. Any economic woes Brexit might bring will affect women the most

Predicted downturn of GDP after Brexit would invariably mean cuts to jobs and services. Women would be at the highest risk under such policies. New trade deals could also result in foreign companies pressuring British governments on profitability clauses, that would then affect economic measures that often benefit women, like raises to the national minimum wage.

Joana Ramiro is a reporter for Left Foot Forward. You can follow her on Twitter for all sorts of rants here.

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