Equalities

The Labour Party has a proud history of advancing the rights of women, BAME people and LGBT+ people, including the Race Relations Act in 1965, the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality in 1967, the Equal Pay Act in 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act in 1995, the repeal of Section 28 in 2003 and the introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2006. In the past few years, we have seen a shocking rise in far-right activism and hate crimes alongside the Conservative’s ideological programme of austerity which have disproportionately fallen on women and minority groups. The election of Donald Trump and the subsequent roll back of rights and equalities legislation across America demonstrates that there is no room for complacency on equalities. I am fully committed to campaigning for further progress towards equality and against the erosion of rights and protections we currently face.

I am proud to represent one of the most diverse constituencies in the country. Since my election I have seen the damage the Tories’ hostile environment has had on our community, and particularly member of the Windrush generation. I have worked hard to support constituents affected and call for urgent action in Parliament. You can read more about my work on Windrush here.

I have recently been working with several charities on projects to diversify the national curriculum, and ensure that all children feel represented in the history they learn at school. Research by the Runnymede Trust demonstrates that the history curriculum taught in our schools, focuses predominantly on a narrow selection of key moments in history rather than a broader inclusive approach.

This has not only led to a low uptake of history at A-level and degree level among BAME students, but deprives all students of learning about the important role of migration in shaping our country and the influence of communities from across the globe who have come to make their home on these islands. From the Viking and Roman invaders, to Irish migrants fleeing starvation during the potato famine, to French Protestant Huguenots fleeing persecution, to the Windrush Generation coming to help rebuild the UK after the Second World War, the history of the UK is a history of migration. Using migration as a prism for the teaching of history allows each of us, on an equal basis, wherever our ancestors originated, to locate ourselves within it.

Working with the Runnymede Trust, I have been calling on the Government to reform the history curriculum so that every child can find their story in the history taught in our schools. Locally, I have supported young people from the Advocacy Academy in protesting outside the Department for Education and writing to the Secretary of State for Education to demand curriculum reform, and I am also working with Book Love and the Black Curriculum to help equip our local schools to teach history in an inclusive way.

Alongside creating a diverse curriculum, we must also protect cultural spaces which document and illustrate the histories of BAME communities. I have been working closely with the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in Brixton to secure funding and their long-term future. The BCA is the only national institution in Britain dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the history of black people in the UK.

Helen with Dawn Butler supporting 50:50 Parliament

I am proud to have supported the recent legislative effort to bring access to abortion to Northern Ireland. I fully support the right of every woman to choose whether she wishes to continue with a pregnancy, and to have the right to a safe, legal termination if she does not. I also support the protection of access to clinics and secure funding for clinics. I added my name to both Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson’s amendments, and I am delighted that these were overwhelmingly passed by Parliament. I will continue to closely follow the implementation of this bill to ensure the Government adheres to its commitments.

I am a supporter of the campaign to end period poverty, including the CWU campaign to make period products free. I welcome the Government’s move to introduce free sanitary products to all schools, however I believe this should be extended to all workplaces and public buildings. I supported attempts to reform Parliamentary procedure to allow baby leave and proxy voting for Members of Parliament. This is crucial to making politics more accessible and welcoming for young women.

We must also work to address the impact that nine years of austerity has had on women. I am concerned about the impact of universal credit on women, and particularly victims of domestic abuse, and have called for the introduction of routine split payments. Research has also shown that women are particularly vulnerable to the housing market and are more likely to require larger properties to accommodate families. I recently hosted the launch in Parliament of the Women’s Budget Group report ‘A Home of Her Own’ documenting the impact of the housing crisis on women and I support their work in scrutinising the impact of Government policy on women.

The past year has seen a series of horrific attacks against LGBT+ people and protests outside schools attempting to intimidate teachers and prevent students accessing much needed relationships and sex education. I support the introduction of updated RSE guidelines and believe this must sit as part of a whole-school approach embedded across the curriculum with well-trained staff. The Government must now ensure schools have the resources to deliver this.

I was pleased to support the recent extension of equal marriage to Northern Ireland under the amendment tabled by Conor McGinn MP. I will continue to press for residents in Northern Ireland to have marriage equality along with residents everywhere else in the United Kingdom.

I have been working with local healthcare providers and in Parliament to campaign for increased access to PrEP to anyone at risk of HIV infection. The Government must deliver a fully-funded programme to roll out the treatment to all high-risk groups to help reduce HIV infection. The Labour Party has committed to introducing specialist training for all frontline health and social care staff to understand and meet the needs of LGBT patients.

The Government's LGBT survey found that many trans people want legal recognition of their gender identity, but found the current process too bureaucratic, expensive and intrusive. I believe that both the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and Equality Act 2010 should be reformed to ensure they protect trans people.


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