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Glenys Kinnock: Government’s ‘International Violence Against Women Champion’ Lynne Featherstone has “little grasp of the facts”

16 March 2012

Our Honorary Co-President Glenys Kinnock letter in The Guardian on Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone’s poor performance as the UK Government’s International Violence Against Women Champion:

Jane Martinson’s incisive interview of Lynne Featherstone (I have the powers of high-level nagging, 10 March) shows that the equalities minister has little grasp of the facts about what women need and have every right to expect from a modern government led by a prime minister who claims to be “repositioning” himself on issues of particular importance to women.

Indeed, Featherstone’s boast that she exerts power by “high-level nagging” sounds more like abject conformity to stereotyping than effective advocacy. No wonder it isn’t working.

It is also clear that her interpretation of her global cross-departmental role for co-ordinating activities to tackle violence against women bears little resemblance to the nature of the responsibility Gordon Brown gave me when I was a foreign office minister. Tellingly, it took several months for this government to even fill the post – thus losing the vital momentum needed in the context of the growing, and urgent, concern about the violence inflicted on women, for instance in Congo, for whom access to justice is a forlorn hope.

Most depressing of all, when asked about Afghanistan the minister offered no condemnation of President Karzai’s endorsement, just a few days ago, of appalling guidelines which make Afghan women “secondary” and threaten what progress has arduously been achieved for, and with, women and girls in that country. The inadequacy of the equalities minister is further sad proof that the Cameron-Clegg coalition is no friend to women at home or abroad. What a dismal reality on International Women’s Day.
Glenys Kinnock
House of Lords

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