The effect of Brexit on women in the UK

The effect of Brexit on women in the UK

Brexit is on everyone’s lips, but are women’s rights being forgotten?

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The uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations is increasingly worrying to those most vulnerable to its effects. For us at JAN Trust, our concern is for the safety and protection of BAME women. While politicians talk strategy, economics, and sovereignty, are the rights and wellbeing of these women being taken into account?

Many are worried that the government does not represent their experience. As of 2017, 29% of MPs went to private schools, 92% of MPs are white, and 68% are men. It can be argued that the needs of ethnic minority women may not be represented or fully understood by the government. In such a time as this, when impactful decisions are being made on behalf of the country, it may be BAME women, like those who use our services at JAN Trust, who are not catered for in negotiations.

Discrimination and Immigration

One reason many people voted for Brexit was fear of immigration, an issue often used as a scapegoat for social unrest and economic difficulties. The aftermath of the referendum has seen a rise in hate crimes and racial assault. In 2018 the Home Office reported that recorded hate crimes had more than doubled over five years. They noted that levels have spiked around recent terrorist attacks and the polarised rhetoric surrounding the Brexit leave campaign. Here at JAN Trust we work hard to tackle the rise of Islamophobia and hate crime, aiming to educate young people and the local community generally.. This rise in hate crime is extremely concerning, and demonstrates just one way in which Brexit has made some groups of people feel unwanted, or even unsafe. We empower many Muslim and BAME women with the skills to include themselves in the community and integrate in society, however their safety is our priority, and the racist rhetoric that often surrounds Brexit can put them at risk.

Another issue with this unwelcoming atmosphere in the UK is the effect on public services. Many EU citizens and other immigrants who contribute to society no longer feel like they can live here without facing discrimination. The NHS depends strongly on EU citizens; in October 2018, 10% of doctors and 7% of nurses were EU nationals. If new laws restricting freedom of movement make it difficult for EU nationals to stay in the country, these services will be under even more pressure. Not only would this increased staff shortage make it more difficult to get appointments and treatment, it would also put more strain on remaining staff- according to NHS Digital, women make up over three quarters of total NHS staff.

Economic Concerns for Women

The Women’s Budget Group’s 2018 report on the potential damage Brexit could cause for women highlights several worrying possibilities. Many economists predict a fall in G.D.P which may hit women the hardest. If the economy gets worse, there could be job losses, especially in areas that depend on EU trade. Included in these sectors are textiles and clothing manufacturing, which have mostly female workers. Furthermore, a poor trade deal could lead to price hikes in everyday items and food. This would hit the poorest households hardest, affecting single-parent families and mothers directly.

The report also emphasises the point that Brexit diverts attention from other pressing issues such as health and social care; as the pressure on the NHS becomes ever more obvious, homelessness levels increase, and access to housing is so limited, it seems much is at stake as the government spends the majority of its time dealing with Brexit.

Human Rights

Finally, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will be lost when we leave the EU. While the European Convention on Human Rights will still apply to us, the Charter provides stricter ways of enforcing human rights. As well as this, the UK will lose the guarantee of equal rights provided by EU law, meaning some rights may be vulnerable to change with future governments.

As an organisation that focuses on the needs and issues of marginalised women, at JAN Trust we are concerned by any loss of human rights. We must work together to demand fair treatment and protection for those who could be badly affected by Brexit and some of the prejudiced attitudes that have accompanied the referendum. It is important to ask for better governmental representation, make ourselves heard, and ensure that women are not forgotten about as we go forward with Brexit.

To find out more about how you can support women in the UK, visit our website!