Gender discrimination shadows women, from cradle to grave

A petition to include mothers on marriage certificates has gained 70,000 signatures. To some it sounds trivial, but excluding mothers’ names serves to wipe women from historical record, and it's just one example of sexism that women face every day

Parliament is a peculiar sort of place.

Upon standing to speak there earlier this year, wearing a white t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘No More Page Three’  - in support of the namesake campaign - I was metaphorically plonked into the naughty corner.

No one batted an eyelid at my waving a copy of the page in question. But then its bare-breasted images are readily available throughout the Westminster estate.

When I suggested that The Sun was removed from our workplace until Page Three put some clothes on, the Prime Minister seemed to find the whole thing very amusing.

This is just one of the many ways in which gender discrimination shadows us still, from cradle to grave.

It’s even stamped upon our marriage certificates – a fact which has gained some column inches of late.  These legal documents require the details of a bride and groom’s fathers. But mothers receive no mention – no space has even been made to do so. This stands true for opposite and same sex marriages alike.

To some it may sound trivial. But this recalls a time when marriage was seen as a business transaction between the father of the bride and the father of the groom.

It beggars belief that our law should perpetuate such a draconian message. It also presents a very practical problem. This is a legal document. Excluding mothers’ names serves to wipe women from historical record. It matters. When a son or daughter gets married, they should have the right to document those people who helped them become who they are.

It seems that many people agree. A petition, launched this year by Ailsa Burkimsher Sadler, has raised almost 70,000 signatures. It calls for marriage certificates to comply with the Equality Act by including space for mothers’ names. Many of those who have signed have written their reason for doing so – it’s certainly worth a read.

In support, I tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM), pressuring the Home Office to make history by changing the laws - and to permit mothers' names to be added retrospectively to existing certificates.

Ailsa initiated the petition from a fierce sense of justice. She wanted, she said, to generate enough conservation so the Home Office had to “sit up and pay attention”.

And so it now is.

My own EDM has gained strong cross-party support to become this year’s ‘most signed’ - supported by more than 100 fellow MPs.

But sexism doesn’t only raise its ugly head on our big days. As captured by the Everyday Sexism project, it’s a profound normality. It’s systematic and it permeates every aspect of life – from education and the media to our titles and our workplaces.

Our media is positively sodden with it. Page Three is just one, very visible, example.

"Women have been degraded, belittled and served up as sex objects in the press for years"

Women have been degraded, belittled and served up as sex objects in the press for years, despite the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) repeatedly identifying the links between the portrayal of women as sexual objects with attitudes underpinning violence and discrimination against them (a position backed up in a review commissioned by the Government).

Gender discrimination pervades our places of work. The Mind the Gender Pay Gap campaign cites new figures from the Office of National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Incomes: namely that the pay gap between men and women in their twenties has doubled in the past three years.

My own workplace is far from immune.

When I stood up in my white slogan-emblazoned tee-shirt, I did so in an immensely privileged position, at the heart of the British Parliament.

But this institution has been starkly complicit in our country’s systematic oppression of women.

Arguably, it remains so. Certainly it upholds some disquieting traditions.

Mr Cameron’s belittlingly blasé take on Page Three, ready dismissal of its supporters and ‘Yes, Dear’ attitude is, sadly, far from unusual.  

There is a huge amount of work to be done. High on my priority list is parliamentary reform and, part of that is addressing that 'old boys' club' mentality and moving Westminster into the 21st century.

We have some fantastic female voices in politics but they remain woefully under represented.

A new campaign – calling for a fairer ‘50/50’ representation of women in politics points out that just 23 per cent of our MPs are female. We’re topped in that table by Afghanistan.

Time may stand still for no man – or woman! – in life, but Westminster knows how to drag its feet: there’s a long hard slog ahead to reform, both inside its walls and out.

But I’m excited – I think there’s a genuine cause for optimism.

There are so many exciting feminist voices emerging today and movements taking root. They’re gaining in confidence, gaining attention and making real headway in helping us push for real – political – change.  

You can sign Ailsa’s petition for mothers’ name on marriage certificates, and read the stories, at:

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

    Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

    SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

    £1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

    Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

    £32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam