Government

Anthem (Leonard Cohen)

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

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No Woman, No Cry?

Refuge, the single largest provider of safe havens and support to survivors of domestic abuse is facing closure due to a 50% cut in funding. Local authorities have slashed their contribution to services for women at risk of domestic and sexual abuse by over £2 million. The organisation have already shut down two of their culturally sensitive projects providing support to women from ethnic minorities, specialist services that cannot be replaced, placing the most vulnerable women in our society at even greater risk of abuse and/or homicide. My heart is pounding as I write this.

I have worked for Refuge and various other schemes. They provide the backbone to many other services, leading the way with their specialist in-house training and the national 24hr domestic violence helpline. They have helped implement a framework which ensures equality and good practice across the board. Putting it mildly, without Refuge, many women would be forced to remain in abusive relationships, destined to put up and shut up.

2 women a week are murdered by their abusive partners. In the year 2012, spousal homicide is still very much a reality. Whilst this is still an issue, how can this government possibly justify slashing the budget by half? Austerity means cuts, but we’ve all seen what cuts do to the people of this country. They are already dying due to welfare reform, vulnerable people are committing suicide because this government has not listened to them, has not believed that they are genuinely unwell, has withdrawn their support to leave them suffering alone. The campaign to divide and rule the public against the sick and disabled has been malicious. They want people with mental health issues to work for their benefit.

Now, what will they think of our women at risk of or fleeing domestic abuse? Rhetoric around the breakdown of the family, single mothers and their devil spawn, the women that broke Britain by undermining the role of father and breadwinner… Male privilege must be allowed to return and flourish. Hear hear, vote Tory!

As a child, I witnessed domestic abuse in all its forms. In my home, on the street, in the media. Women were not more accepting of it back then, they simply had no choice. The police would not respond as urgently to domestic calls because they were exactly that, issues to be resolved between ‘man and wife’.

My mother remained in an abusive relationship until I was old enough, aged 15 to drag her away from it and into a safe house. She just didn’t have the strength. She couldn’t do it herself because she was afraid to speak the language (my mother spoke fluent English but was too ashamed to having been mocked by father for being illiterate). Culturally sensitive refuges meant that women like my mum could approach a service themselves if they needed to. When I eventually began my career in domestic violence services, I started off in a refuge for women of South Asian origin. The work we did was invaluable. It saddens me that cuts will always affect the most specialist services first.

Vivien Hayes of the Women’s Resource Centre, speaking to the Guardian, says “Government cuts have impacted more negatively on women than men. You have to wonder whether this is a case of institutional sexism.” And by its very nature, institutionalised racism too. The culturally sensitive refuges go first, then services to women in general.

Whether it is cuts to job in the public sector or direct funding to vulnerable women and their children, women have borne the brunt of this government’s policies. They’ve tried to affect the way in which we access family planning services. We’ve seen them mock their female members of parliament, “calm down dear, yada yada.”  It’s easy to imagine the PM as a spotty teenaged boy, pulling on the pigtails of his crush, calling her a slag when she rejects him.

Are we in the slightest bit surprised that the Tories would do this to us and our services?

What comes next? The decriminalization of spousal rape?

Cutting services for women, thereby definitely cutting services to BME women, turning the clock back to the 1970s and all the other privileges that period afforded men. Yes, the country will save money. There’ll be fewer divorces, fewer welfare claims, fewer women to deal with because many more of them will be dead.

The Independent on Sunday places the UK in 16th place for the best place in the world for a woman to be.

SIXTEENTH.

I have a feeling it’s about to get a lot worse.

Petitioners.. Lend me your ears

Avaaz, 38 degrees, Care2… We British love a good petition. We can save the forests, halt Rupert Murdoch in his dark and dirty tracks. If enough of us get involved, heck, we could even save the NHS! Couldn’t we? Dr Kailash Chand’s petition to ‘drop the health bill’ currently stands at 151,565, surpassing the 100k mark backbenchers need in order to discuss the will of the people. By a long shot. The people have spoken, it would seem. The NHS is saved! Isn’t it?

Mark Donne wrote an enlightening piece for the Independent in which he explains that our collective voice has been given a platform that is not all we perceive it be. ‘Clicktivism’, signing a petition, hashtagging,  is holding us back and merely “provide an extremely convenient holding centre for disgruntled or livid voters. Most are unable or just too busy/ exhausted/lazy to attend a demonstration or occupation, but click here, “like” this and you have resisted: you (and the forces you oppose) can sleep at night.”

A ruse to divert us away from actually acting.  As a nation, we’ve been forced to subscribe to this method of activism because we have seen what happens when we do vote with our feet. Armed police on horses charge into crowds full of children, politicians strike up dialogue calling for water-boarding and rubber bullets and people get beaten and detained, their identities embedded into systems that will hold them for however long the establishment deem fit. We live in a tyrannical state.

When the Prime Minister of this country holds a summit to discuss NHS ‘reform’ and how these changes affect GPs yet refuses to invite said GPs, he is making a statement that the matter is not open for discussion. Why haven’t the BMA and Royal College of General Practitioners been asked to attend? Could it be because they oppose the bill and fear that rather than reforming the NHS, they are in fact destroying it? So PM Cameron is actively denying a voice to anyone that might object to his make-the-Tories-even-richer-by-going-private scheme. When a number of Lords and MPs look to benefit personally from us all going private, it makes it all the more sinister.

A selection for your perusal:

  • The former Conservative Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley is a Director of BUPA, the health insurance, private hospital and care group.
  • Baroness Cumberlege of Newick, Former Tory health minister, runs Cumberlege Connections, a political networking firm that works “extensively” with the pharmaceutical industry
  • Baron Newton of Braintree – Advisor to Oasis Healthcare on dentistry and general healthcare matters.
  • Lord Ballyedmond – Chairman of pharmaceutical company Norbrook Laboratories.
  • Lord Bell – Chairman of Chime Communications group, whose lobbying clients include Southern Cross, BT Health and AstraZeneca. Tim Bell has a conviction for ‘wilfuly, openly and obscenely’ exposing himself ‘with intent to insult a female’ under Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act.
  •  David Cameron – Nursing and care home tycoon Dolar Popat has given the Conservatives £209,000. The Ugandan-born dad-of-three has amassed an estimated £42million fortune as founder and chief of TLC Group, which provides services for the elderly. Mr Cameron made the businessman a peer shortly after entering No10 last May, and Lord Popat’s donations include a £25,000 gift registered a week after the Tories’ health reforms were unveiled last July.

HT @socialindepth

(For a comprehensive list of MPs and Lords set to financially gain from the dismantling of the NHS, please visit http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.com/2012/02/nhs-privatisation-compilation-of.html)

With all of this going on right under our noses, we have a right to be angry. We have the democratic right to protest, apparently we live in a ‘democracy’. Mark Donne agrees, posing the question to Noam Chomsky “what he thought the outcome would have been if the nearly 500,000 who have signed a yet-to-be presented petition against the privatisation of the NHS had joined the other 3,000 in occupying Westminster Bridge in late October.” Noam simply replied, “You would have no bill”.

Although petitions are proving to be entirely useless, history will remember we opposed this bill in our hundreds and thousands. To ensure an outcome, we need a million (wo)man march. Somehow we must fight back against the scare tactics employed to silence us. Disgruntled citizens the world over are saying enough is enough, organising marches, rallying, making their governments fear them and the will of the people.

Why do we remain so afraid of ours?

REFERENCES

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/mark-donne-could-a-renewed-activism-translate-into-serious-pressure-on-the-government-6256633.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/feb/19/david-cameron-nhs-summit-criticism