Women deserve better pay, need strengthened protections against harassment and should be championed in the workplace, MPs have said.
During a debate ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, female MPs also highlighted abuse they had received.
And Labour MP Jess Phillips read out the names of more than 100 women murdered by men in the last 12 months.
Women’s minister Liz Truss said the government was “proud of the steps it is taking” for equal rights.
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MPs listened in silence as Ms Phillips shared the names of women who have died since the last International Women’s Day parliamentary debate in 2019.
“In reading the list and thinking every year about having to say the same thing, I cannot help but reflect that had these women all been murdered in terrorist incidents, had these women all died of coronavirus, had these women all died at sports events around the year, there would be huge inquiry,” she said.
“Far, far greater response is made to almost every other epidemic than the epidemic of male violence against women.”
Former Conservative minister Caroline Nokes warned that the Domestic Abuse Bill – delayed by December’s general election – “must pass in this Parliament” and there were “no excuses this time”.
The bill was among several which fell by the wayside last autumn after Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspended Parliament and MPs subsequently voted for an early general election last year.
‘Vitriol and hatred’
Ms Nokes, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, also criticised the government for its gender pay gap and male-dominated cabinet.
“Gender pay gap reporting has shone a light on disparity, but we know that some government departments have gone backwards and the disparity today is greater today than it was last year,” Ms Nokes said.
Former minister and Labour MP Harriet Harman asked Ms Nokes to work with her “so that we can plot together to use the forthcoming Employment Bill as an opportunity to bring in new tougher laws to narrow the gender pay gap”.
Labour MP Rosie Duffield spoke out against the level of misogynistic abuse online, saying the “vitriol and hatred” of women was clear on social media platforms.
“Part of our job as women in Parliament is to receive it, filter it, weather it, police it, ignore it, highlight it, talk about it, help other women, deal with it, tackle it so that other women don’t have to, and fight it constantly, with a view to eradicating it completely,” she said.
Referring to TV host Caroline Flack, who was found dead at her London flat last month, Ms Duffield said: “There is now recognition that things need to change, not just for five minutes or five months, but significantly.”
Her comments follow a petition that was handed in on Tuesday called for a so-called “Caroline’s Law”, which would make media bullying and harassment a criminal offence.
And Labour’s shadow women’s minister Dawn Butler said: “Women deserve better pay, increased flexibility and strengthened protections against harassment and discrimination. Women deserve equal pay and equitable recognition.”
She called for the creation of a standalone women and equalities department.
“For too long, politics has been the reserve for a particularly wealthy group in society in the ‘old boys’ club’ and I’m pleased that that is slowly beginning to change,” she said.
Addressing MPs, minister for women and equalities Liz Truss said that the government’s role was to “remove the barriers for women, so it is your talent ideas and character that matter and not anything else”.