I doubt that Liz Truss will make girls’ lives better. Here’s why
Despite being a woman, the candidate for conservative leader Liz Truss would not benefit girls’ and women’s rights if she became prime minister. Well, that’s how I feel as a female British teenager.
Whilst on a surface level Ms Truss would appear to be a good choice for women’s rights, this will not necessarily lead to a more progressive and inclusive country if her policies do not reflect a wish to make an impactful change, such as the creation of enforced legislation against sexism.
Legislation could involve laws that ensure greater equality within the workplace or make progress to eliminate the large amounts of violence against women.
This change is unlikely as she is representing the conservative party, which is well-known for its lack of support for women’s rights or other marginalised groups, especially after her insufficient positive impact during her time as the Minister for Women and Equalities from September 2021-2022.
Economic empowerment of women
In April 2020, Ms Truss claimed that she was to focus particularly on the economic empowerment of women by increasing the number of women involved in business and entrepreneurship. This would theoretically be an advancement for women, however, her actions were not enough to make significant improvements.
She set up a taskforce to boost women within business which aimed to increase the number of female entrepreneurs. One way this was to be accomplished using the pay transparency pilot which was available for businesses wishing to increase employment opportunities for women.
The pilot was prompted by evidence showing that listing salary ranges on job adverts, while not asking candidates to disclose their salary history, provides a firm footing for women to negotiate pay on a fairer basis.
This is beneficial to women as it furthers their influence within the economy and allows them to receive higher salaries demonstrating the capabilities of Ms Truss to make a positive impact in a position of power.
However, this does very little to actively involve women in business as this is optional advice. This means businesses engaging with it are already likely to be passionate about recruiting women, so this does nothing to significantly increase the economic empowerment of women.
Ms Truss’ lack of support for women’s rights is ultimately highlighted by the attack on abortion and sexual health rights.
She opened a UK-hosted conference on freedom of religion and belief that resulted in the creation of a document signed by 20 countries. However, there were later alterations made to remove laws that “allow harmful practices, or restrict women’s and girls full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, bodily autonomy”.
These rights include women’s rights to make informed choices related to when and if they have children, as well as access to information and services to prevent or treat sexually transmitted infections.
Despite those changes, the UK still co-signed the document which is destructive for women as it removes their freedom and power in a way that is not possible to do for men. By signing this document the UK, and more specifically Ms Truss, is not only displaying a failure to advocate for women’s rights but being significantly detrimental.
I believe this foreshadows her time as prime minister as it is very likely for this harmful direction to continue under the remaining conservative government. Her role as a woman will do little to sway related decisions in the favour of women, as shown by her lack of opposition to these alterations.
Despite a lack of action so far in her career to advocate for impactful change for women in the UK, she has promised an increased focus on tackling street harassment.
Abortion Rights protest, US, July 2022
This will be accomplished by the creation of a register for domestic abusers and an increased focus on rape cases. The register would involve offenders having to inform the police about arrangements with new partners or children with the attempt of decreasing the number of repeat offenders and breaking cycles of abuse.
A system like this has the potential to lessen the number of women unknowingly entering relationships with people that were abusive to previous partners, and make women feel safer within relationships as there are penalties in place to protect them if they are subjected to abuse.
She also aims to accelerate the process of handling rape cases, which are often impeded by the slow judicial systems. This will be a difficult promise to enforce due to the already existing difficulties with prosecuting rape cases with a lack of physical evidence to prove guilt.
If she is successful in the increase of rape cases prosecuted, it will further women’s rights because it supports a culture normalising the reporting of incidents involving sexual assault or rape as there is a higher likelihood of action taking place.
Tackling international sexual violence
I feel that despite work done internationally for women’s rights by Ms Truss, this does not accurately reflect the advancements of women within the UK. She attempts to demonstrate a commitment to women’s rights by launching a campaign focused on tackling sexual violence globally.
That involved the investment of £3 million to boost organisations tackling violence against women and girls. This amount of money has the capability to provide meaningful support for women across the world to improve their rights by providing access to healthcare and the support necessary to recover from their traumatic experiences.
Whilst this is a step in the right direction for women and reflects well on Ms Truss as a candidate for women, it does little to hide the overwhelming lack of consistent support for women within Britain which is either ineffective or actively detrimental.
Ultimately, if elected she has the capabilities to make significant headway in the progression of women’s rights, however based on her history of ineffectual action, it is unlikely for her to make tangible change within the UK. Especially, following the recent developments on abortion rights, she could cause a regression of progress without having the protection of abortion and sexual health rights firmly in place.