Glamorgan Gem Column - February 2018
Last week marked 100 years since Parliament passed a law which gave the first women across the UK the right to vote.
Many of us take our right to vote for granted and it’s somewhat hard to believe that women were not allowed to vote just over 100 years ago. The Representation of the People Act (1918) paved the way for what would prove to be a long campaign for true gender equality. It’s important to remember however that this Act did not allow all women across the UK to vote. Given the restrictions which were attached to the Act, over 22 per cent of women over the age of 30 were still not afforded this right at this stage.
Today, positive steps are being taken to ensure that true gender equality can be achieved one day soon. I’m proud to be part of the most diverse Parliamentary Labour Party ever of which 45 per cent are women. Whilst we clearly still have much work to do to encourage a greater number of women to enter politics and seek election, in the past few decades we have made real strides forwards in a hugely positive direction. I look forward to the day when we have a 50:50 Parliament which better reflects the make-up of the UK’s society as a whole.
One of the key ways through which we can make this happen is to call out any discrimination or abuse which women are subjected to at any level of elected office, or whenever it occurs across our communities. It has never been right and will never be right for an individual to be treated differently on the basis of their gender, or indeed, because of their ethnicity, sexuality, age, religion or any other reason. This anniversary also acts as a reminder of the key hurdles we still have to tackle before achieving equality of opportunity and equal rights for everyone across our society.
At this important centenary, we must of course celebrate those who fought so hard to give women the rights they now enjoy but we must also critically reflect upon the action which needs to be taken rapidly to work towards true gender equality in the future.