THIS WEEK OUR SOCIAL IMPACT BRIEFING COVERS NEW REVELATIONS ON MODERN DAY SLAVERY IN BRITAIN, REINVIGORATED EFFORTS TO BAN CONVERSION THERAPY, AND THE END OF THE “ROUGH SEX DEFENCE”.
| MODERN DAY SLAVERY IN BRITAIN
Yesterday, the Sunday Times reported that online clothing brand Boohoo is using suppliers in Leicester that pay their staff as little as £3.50 an hour, under half of the £8.72 National Minimum Wage. There were also allegations of “furlough fraud” and of workers being told to come into work whilst sick – in some cases even after a positive Covid-19 test. While the situation in Leicester is particularly bleak, with approximately 10,000 victims of modern slavery in the city alone, a report from The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) believes that the UK is likely to have in excess of 100,000 victims of modern slavery. The economic and social cost to the UK was deemed to be around £4 million in 2017, but this was based on 10,000 suspected victims nationally, so the true figure is likely to be far higher.
In response to these reports, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel claimed that cultural sensibilities had prevented local police and councils from acting on suspected cases. Critics of this position, including Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, responded that no evidence has been provided to support these claims, saying that the central government is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage through HMRC, while government agency HSE is responsible for health and safety in the manufacturing sector. Both suggested that government agencies have not been sufficiently funded to identify or address the problem.
We spoke with Joanna Ewart-James, Executive Director of Freedom United to get her view. She said:
We need consistency in the message that profit cannot be at the expense of people. This must be backed up by effective policies to protect workers, regulations on business practice, and enforcement by local and national government and its agencies. These measures must be developed collectively with stakeholders including suppliers, retailers, trade unions, community and worker rights groups to ensure their efficacy. Financial results alone should not be the measure of business success.— Joanna Ewart-James, Executive Director of Freedom United
Since 2010, there have been only seven prosecutions for minimum wage breaches in the UK, but given the emerging situation in Leicester, there are likely to be countless examples of minimum wage breaches going unreported.
| TIME TO END CONVERSION THERAPY
Last week saw the launch of Ban Conversion Therapy, a new campaign set up by our very own Creative Producer, Matthew Hyndman. The campaign wants to pressure the government to prohibit the pseudoscientific practice of conversion therapy – an umbrella term to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed.
The campaign launched with an open letter to Liz Truss, Government Minister for Women and Equalities. It was signed by a wide range of public figures, including musicians Elton John and Dua Lipa; NGOs Amnesty International and Stonewall; and politicians Layla Moran MP and Angela Eagle MP.
Last month, the UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity called for a global ban on conversion therapy, calling it “ineffective and harmful” and suggesting that it “leaves indelible scars on a person’s body and mind”. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims have also called for a global ban, after concluding that the practice meets the criteria to be classified as torture, making its practice a clear violation of international human rights law.
Conversion therapy does not work and it is incredibly harmful. I don’t want any young person to be able to open that door. Being gay is not a mental illness. Being trans is not a mental illness. It is not something that can, or should be ‘cured.’ Self acceptance, love and kindness are the keys to a health happy life.— Matthew Hyndman, co-founder of Ban Conversion Therapy
| MPs UNANIMOUSLY BACK VOTE TO END THE “ROUGH SEX DEFENCE”
Last week, the Domestic Abuse Bill entered its final vote in the House of Commons. In an almost unprecedented vote, MPs unanimously voted to ban the “rough sex defence”. This defence has affected at least 60 women in the UK since the 1970s, who were killed by partners who then claimed their deaths were accidents from violent – but consensual – sex.
In the last five years, seven killers had successfully used the defence to receive a lighter sentence and many more women who reported rapes or sexual attacks have had their cases impeded by perpetrators who claimed they were engaging in consensual sexual violence. Perhaps most notably, the defence was used in New Zealand by the murderer of Grace Millane (pictured: right), a British backpacker who was killed last year.
We are pleased that the government are stopping ‘Rough Sex’ being used as a defence. It needs to be called what it really is and that’s murder.– Grace Millane’s family
The defence drew much criticism when it was used in Grace’s case, leading MPs Harriet Harman and Laura Farris to lead the campaign to ban it, with a petition receiving around 67,000 signatures.
Amid a pandemic which has disproportionately affected women, this amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill is a win for gender equality campaigners and should be celebrated.
| SPOTLIGHT ON…THE GREAT ADAPTATION
This Thursday we’re hosting a free digital discussion on how the arts industry is adapting in the world of Covid-19.
We’ll be joined by the Olivier-winning playwright and TV writer James Graham, Affordable Arts Fair UK Director Elizabeth Dellert, and Hay Festival Director Peter Florence. In light of the government’s bailout package, we’ll be hearing about the innovations and challenges that Covid-19 has created, both over the last few months and into the future, and how our cultural institutions are faring in the most uncertain time since WWII.
Register here → bit.ly/3e1tozW
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