The horror of the schoolgirls being kidnapped in Nigeria is yet another reality jolt: a reminder that we women can go about our daily lives of education, eating, working, surviving... if the men in our communities and societies allow us.
If there is a consensus between men that women should have a degree of freedom, then it is granted, but, sadly, recent history shows that if that consensus disappears, women’s freedoms are curtailed or lost altogether.
Take Afghanistan; as recently as 1995 nearly half the working population were women – employed as doctors, teachers, engineers and scientists, as well as in other professional occupations. And then the Taliban came to power.
The brutal rape of a young woman in Delhi in 2012 lifted the purdah on the horrific experiences of thousands of raped women. The introduction of new legislation and strong media coverage have meant that rape is more openly discussed, but what has changed?
Legislation can only be a deterrent if it is enforced. Hard to do when the police are open to bribery and turning a blind eye, and when the raped woman is put under a lot of emotional, and sometimes physical, pressure not to press charges.
We like to think that here in Britain women stand shoulder to shoulder with men, and we have achieved equality.
So we can go out drinking, be “one of the lads”, buy property and have careers, and we certainly do have more freedom than a lot of our sisters abroad.
However, we’re still blamed for the sexual violence we might experience because we weren’t dressed right, had to much to drink, didn’t say no at the right point in the evening...
In November 2013, a TUC report published for Equal Pay Day highlighted the small matter of women in full-time employment being paid 15 per cent less per hour than men. And if you are of childbearing age, you’re seen as a liability, just in case you reproduce.
When are we going to wake up? The use of women as collateral and chattel is contemptuous and shows utter disregard for us.
We need to stop thinking we’ve shattered the proverbial glass ceiling, that walking the streets at night is safe, and that young women don’t need to be feminists. We have to continue to demand that our voices are heard and our presence respected.
To change the sexist and misogynist paradigms that we toil through, we must address those that hold power.
It is up to you – boys and men – to change. You have to stop the violence and oppression.
I am not at all comfortable about people like Richard Scudamore, who thinks that even in private he can make or send sexist comments.
He should read the poster held up by a Nigerian in a photograph in The Independent (12 May) saying: Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.
Real men don’t buy girls, under any circumstances, nor do they think it is clever or acceptable to make sexist jokes.
The Nigerian man was referring to the abhorrent abduction of the schoolgirls in his country – which the rest of the world has only justA bothered to get worked up about.
Without tax avoidance we would all pay less
Grace Dent (13 May) misses the point in defending Gary Barlow and his attempts to be more “tax efficient”.
There are thousands of higher-rate taxpayers who could avail themselves of the multifarious tax avoidance schemes peddled by accountants and other tax advisers.
The point is that the ethical and moral among us, who choose to live, work and/or own a property in this relatively rich and stable country, recognise that society can only flourish if all pay their fair share of tax on their earned and unearned income and capital gains. If all higher-rate taxpayers did the same, we would all pay a lot less tax.
I am distrustful of recent political efforts to demonise tax avoidance and I take issue with Chris Blackhurst’s rallying call (14 May) to clamp down on tax avoiders.
Tax avoidance is not illegal or immoral. Indeed, the Government actively promotes tax avoidance schemes such as ISAs which, due to the restrictions on what you can put in, when you can put it in, and the split between cash and equities, must count as “artificial or contrived arrangements” in the words of HMRC.
Surely, if the Government feels that schemes are in existence where unsanctioned aggressive tax avoidance is occurring, then they are the people ideally suited to change the law, close the loophole and declare schemes of this nature illegal.
Then tax evasion is illegal and immoral and perpetrators can be prosecuted. This is what the Government should be aiming at, rather than trying to shame a few high-profile celebrities to change their completely legal tax arrangements.
One of the Prime Minister’s showbiz chums has come a cropper with the taxman. Perhaps he could show a little contrition by spearheading a new HMRC campaign to promote self-assessment.
If only the Government hadn’t cut the top rate of tax. They’ve missed out on at least an extra million if the widely reported extent of tax avoidance by the man described as “a national treasure” is true.
David Cameron’s “cast-iron” promise over an EU referendum has just been reported on, but we’ve heard that from him before. There’s a rumour that he shrugged “Promises? Everything changes” when challenged about this. But it could have been a discussion of his favourite boy band track.
Racism is a much abused word
People will see racism who have a thirst for finding it. In The British Dream, published last year, David Goodhart wrote: “The word racist is used to describe everything from surprise at seeing a black face on a Cornish beach, through the suspicion that an Asian man with a holdall on the London Tube might be a bomber, to the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing.
“The word has become a portmanteau term of opprobrium, devalued through overuse and inaccurate use... The threshold for the use of the word racism has fallen too low in the past two decades.”
If it is racist to want to leave the European Union, if it is racist to wish for a strictly controlled rate of immigration, so be it. I shall not be deterred from voting for Ukip next week.
Last week Nigel Farage argued Ukip was undergoing a “Clause IV” moment insisting: “I don’t care what you call us but from this moment on, please, do not ever call us a racist party.”
Less than a week after that, Sanya-Jeet Thandi, one of Ukip’s most prominent British Asian supporters, has quit the party, accusing it of descending into “racist populism”. No matter how much its leadership denies it, by any sane criteria Ukip is a racist party with a racist agenda which appeals to racists. No one who is considering voting for them should be in any doubt about that.
Double standard on domestic violence
I am a long-time admirer of The Independent’s support for campaigns against domestic violence and I have supported those campaigns.
However, over the years, it has been obvious that, implicit in these, has always been an assumption that domestic violence is always perpetrated by men on women. That is not correct. Over 40 per cent of victims of domestic violence are men.
I was shocked, therefore, to see (Dilemmas, 13 May) an incitement by someone identified only as Ruth, to a woman who had written to Virginia Ironside, to attack the woman’s husband by throwing a brick at his head.
This is indicative of an appalling double standard in what is a desperately serious issue, and a denigration of all victims of domestic violence.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Halal is an animal cruelty issue
If you were forced to have your pet put down by cutting its throat, would you choose to have it stunned first? If there were a halal or kosher Dignitas would you choose to end your days there?
There are opportunistic people who use the halal issue to attack Muslims, but many people are genuinely concerned about animal cruelty.
A lesson from Turkish mine disaster
Detractors of health and safety provisions and “regulation” should give serious consideration to the Turkish mining disaster before spouting any future populist opinions on workplace conditions.