This week in women’s rights: A small but important victory for pregnant women at work

This week in women’s rights: A small but important victory for pregnant women at work

Our global weekly round-up tracking progress on gender equality and women’s rights issues. 

Pregnant women will get more protection against redundancy in the UK

Pregnant women in the UK will get more protections against being made redundant under a new bill set to become law later this year. Under the new legislation, companies will not be able to make women redundant from the moment they disclose their pregnancy until their child is 18 months old. 

The bill was introduced by Labour MP Dan Jarvis who said it would help “tens of thousands of women pushed out of the workforce every year simply for being pregnant”.

The Equality Act currently states that an employer must not discriminate against someone because they are pregnant or on maternity leave. However campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed says that few women are able to challenge employers who ignore these protections. 

At the moment there is a time limit of three months for raising a tribunal claim for maternity discrimination, making it extremely challenging for women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth to make a claim. By comparison other types of claims, such as pay discrimination,  have a six month window for raising claims. 

Additionally women are often not made redundant, but are instead put in a position where it’s impossible for them to continue working, by being refused flexible work arrangements for example. 

Pregnant Then Screwed is campaigning for the government to extend the current three-month limit to six months to encourage more women to challenge discrimination. 

Director Joeli Brearley also says pursuing legal action is complicated and expensive, putting many women off pursuing a claim. “Some women are waiting more than two years for their first hearing – nobody wants that hanging over their head,” she said. “It is also very expensive. If you hire a lawyer, cases can cost up to £40,000 to 50,000.”

A women-only bus service aims to provide safety on public transport in Pakistan

A women-only bus service has launched in the city of Karachi in Pakistan. The bright pink buses operate along one of the city’s busiest routes, running every 20 minutes during peak times and every hour throughout the rest of the day. 

The service is the government’s attempt to provide safe public transport for women. Each vehicle has been fitted with surveillance cameras and is operated by female conductors. 

The Women’s Parliamentary Caucus Pakistan said, “This initiative will pave the way for increased women inclusion in the workforce. Such measures contribute to making Pakistan an inclusive country for all regardless of their gender.” 

Pakistan ranks poorly when it comes to women’s rights, with the safety of women in public spaces being a particular problem. According to Amnesty International, “Women in Pakistan are consistently deprived of education, justice, health care, political representation and economic opportunities. They live under the constant threat of violence.” 

Iraqis are protesting the honour killing of Tiba Ali

The “honour killing” of Tiba Ali, a 22-year-old YouTube star, has prompted protests from citizens and women’s rights groups who gathered in the city of Diwaniyah to condemn gender violence in Iraq. 

Ali was strangled in her sleep by her own father, who then turned himself into the police. 

Ali had been living in Turkey and had a YouTube channel with more than 20,000 subscribers, where she documented her life with her Syrian boyfriend.  It is alleged that her father was unhappy about her move to Turkey and her plans to marry. 

In a statement to Associated Press, Rosa al-Hamid, an activist with the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, said “Tiba was killed by her father under tribal justifications that are unacceptable.” 

The group has been urging the government to pass a draft law against domestic violence that has been lingering in parliament since 2019, and are calling for the tribal killings of women to be tried under anti-terrorism laws.

In a previous statement the group said, “The Supreme Judicial Council must immediately issue a decision to deal with tribal killings of women under the Fourth Anti-Terrorism Act, since the killing of a woman causes her family and her children to face terror and lifelong fear.” 

The Israeli government has the lowest number of women in 20 years

Israel’s government has appointed just one woman to the position of director-general across its 29 ministries. The appointment was announced following an outcry over a lack of female representation – the first time in more than 20 years that the government had no women at all in senior positions. 

The Israel Women’s Network had written to the government asking it to appoint more women to director-general roles. “Such a low representation of women among the directors-general of government ministries is a violation of the duty of adequate representation,” it said.

There are only six female ministers out of 32 in the current cabinet. Two of the parties in the ruling coalition – the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas – refuse to have women on their slates of candidates for parliament, let alone to be represented by a female cabinet minister. Additionally if proposed bills go through, private businesses could be allowed to refuse service to women on religious grounds, or even prevent them from entering at certain times of day. 

In response a new umbrella group of 50 women’s groups called the Coalition for Women’s Organizations and Equality has formed to challenge the government on its lack of female representation. 

This new exhibition highlights women’s global fight for their healthcare rights 

A new exhibition featuring work by Joy Gerrard and the late Paula Rego shows the universal conditions that affect women’s health and wellbeing around the world, including abortion rights, female genital mutilation and human trafficking. 

Image as Protest tells the story of women’s health rights through depictions of international protest movements. Gerrard’s drawings  include a birds’ eye view of Sisters Uncut’s protest after the death of Sarah Everard and the huge protests in Berlin to support women in Iran. 

Image as Protest
Source: Cristea Roberts Gallery

Rego’s artworks, created 20 years ago to campaign for the legalisation of abortion in Portugal, along with prints explicitly dealing with violence against women, are also on display here. 

The exhibition runs until March 4 at Cristea Roberts Gallery in London. 

Cambodia adopts gender policies in its tourist sector

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism is adopting new policies to promote women’s roles in the tourist sector. Hun Dany, secretary of state for the Ministry of Tourism, has announced that the ministry is introducing new programmes and activities to promote women’s rights, both in the civil service and the tourism industry, adding that women are “an indispensable driving force who actively contribute to strengthening the resilience and development of the tourism industry.” 

She also stated that the promotion of women’s rights was reflected in the government’s Gender Equality Policy. Earlier this year prime minister Hun Sen had instructed his legal team to defend the rights of women working in the entertainment industry.

A UN report published in 2022 found that Cambodia has made important advances in gender equality over the past 25 years, however significant gender inequalities still exist, creating barriers to women’s equal participation in the cultural, economic and political life of the country. 

cambodia, women's rights
Gender inequalities in Cambodia. Source: UN Cambodia

For example, while lessons on gender and women’s rights have been added to the school curriculum, they continue to teach about the ideals of the “virtuous Khmer woman”. The National Childcare Policy  reinforces the idea of women as responsible for care of children and the household, and there is still a view that men are entitled to sex regardless of consent, which directly contributes to gender-based violence. 

More than 84% of women participate in Cambodia’s labour force, however many are in informal employment and 53% receive no wages. The research also shows that women are over-represented in lower paid, less valued positions and under-represented in more senior and higher paying roles. 

This weekend a Super Bowl game will have a Black woman coach for the first time

Autumn Lockwood is to become the first Black woman to coach in a Super Bowl game. The assistant coach will make history when her team, the Philadelphia Eagles, plays against the Kansas City Chiefs in Glendale, Arizona on February 12.

She will also become just the fourth woman to coach in a Super Bowl. 

Lockwood joined Eagles in August 2022 and is the team’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in sports management. 

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