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Scotland’s social security system must address women’s rights

This news post is almost 6 years old

The Scottish Human Rights Commission wants women's rights to be addressed through new social security legislation

Scotland's new social security system can repair the damage UK welfare reforms have done to women in society.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has said more must be done to tackle gender inequalities, and believes problems experienced by women can be addressed by the new social security system.

A report which will be presented to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) highlights that welfare reforms in the UK have had a disproportionately negative impact on women in Scotland.

It calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the new social security system in Scotland addresses the specific problems experienced by women and continues to mitigate the impacts of welfare reform, particularly on disabled women, black and minority ethnic women and lone mothers, who are disproportionately affected.

Examples cited include women’s employment in Scotland being concentrated in the public sector but only 26% of public bodies are headed by women. Although 81% of the NHS workforce is comprised of women, 80% of NHS Board chairs are men. In Scotland, the gender pay gap sits at nearly 15% when comparing men's and women’s overall hourly wages, placing Scotland second from the bottom of the 45 EU member states.

The report cites problems with women and girls accessing mental healthcare in Scotland. Young women are more than twice as likely to be depressed as men, a problem which particularly affects women on low incomes, who are also more likely to be disabled or from black and minority ethnic communities. The commission recommends that the Scottish Government ensures the NHS mental health strategy gives equal access to services for diverse groups of women.

Chair of the commission Judith Robertson said: “Recent campaigns like #metoo have exposed the reality of just how many women experience day-to-day violations of their rights to safety, security and justice.

“At the same time, women continue to be under-represented in public life, and to bear the brunt of austerity policies, with women from black and minority ethnic communities, disabled women, and women on low incomes often experiencing a double or triple whammy of disadvantage.

“While the Scottish Government is to be commended for many of its actions to progress gender equality, our latest report to the UN shows that it must now go further, faster, to ensure that all women in Scotland are able to enjoy all of their rights – economic, social, civil and political – on the same terms as their male counterparts.”

The Scottish Government said it is committed to protecting women’s rights. A spokesperson said: "We are determined to go further, which is why we are continuing to pursue measures to improve women's opportunities in the labour market, ensure women are properly represented in decision-making positions, and tackle all forms of violence against women and girls.

"And we continue to lead by example, with the Scottish Government having one of very few gender-balanced cabinets anywhere in the world.”