UK has 'sexist culture', says UN

South Wales Argus: A UN official claims she was refused permission to visit Yarl's Wood. A UN official claims she was refused permission to visit Yarl's Wood.

A United Nations (UN) investigator has warned sexism in the UK is more pervasive and "in-your-face" than other countries.

UN special rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo said there is a "boys' club sexist culture" in Britain that influences perceptions of women and girls in the country.

Following a 16 day visit to Britain, Ms Manjoo also warned Government cutbacks have hit violence against women services and confirmed reports she was blocked from entering controversial immigration detention centre for women, Yarl's Wood.

In an initial report on violence against women, the South African human rights expert said legal and policy responses focused on harmful practices, such as early and forced marriages but ignored the harms coming from a "a sexist culture that exists in the country".

She added: "Have I seen this level of sexist culture in other countries? It hasn't been so in-your-face in other countries.

"I haven't seen that so pervasively in other countries. I'm sure it exists but it wasn't so much and so pervasive. I'm not sure what gives rise to a more visible presence of sexist portrayals of women and girls in this country in particular.

"What is clear from these indications of portrayals of women and girls is that there is a boys' club sexist culture. That exists and it does lead to perceptions about women and girls in this country."

In her report, Ms Manjoo said it was of "regret" that despite repeated requests her access to privately-run Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire was denied.

Serco-run Yarl's Wood has been subjected to heavy criticism by human rights campaigners amid reports of sexual misconduct by staff, women being detained for long periods of time and pregnant detainees being held without justification.

Last month, Jamaican detainee Christine Case, 40, died in the centre after suffering what is thought to have been a heart attack.

The UN special rapporteur said: " I regret that, despite my repeated requests, a visit to Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre was not facilitated by the Government, and that my access to the Centre was denied, when I tried to visit it independently.

"Due to receiving information from the third sector, I was keen to speak to detainees in this facility to objectively seek information on violations being experienced."

Following visits to London, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Cookstown, Cardiff and Bristol, Ms Manjoo said she had identified "isolated pockets of good practice", however, these were still not practised consistently throughout the country.

She said many groups had raised the impact of austerity measures, adding that cuts were having a " disproportionate impact" on the provision of violence against women services, as well as other areas affecting women, such as poverty and unemployment.

The special rapporteur said: " Access to trauma services, financial support and housing are crucial, yet current reforms to the funding and benefits system continue to adversely impact women's ability to address safety and other relevant issues."

She also raised concerns about the impact of legal aid cuts on women who have experienced domestic violence, as well as the overall numbers o f young women in prison being too high.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: " Violence against women and girls in any form is unacceptable and the Government has shown its commitment to ending it.

"A comprehensive programme was drawn up for the Special Rapporteur's visit, including meetings with the Home Secretary, the Minister for Crime Prevention, and the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Several other options, including a trip to a women's refuge, were turned down by the Special Rapporteur.

"A tour of Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre was never agreed as part of this fact-finding mission."

A statement from Asylum Aid said: " Asylum Aid is very disappointed that the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo, wasn't allowed to visit Yarl's Wood Detention Centre during her mission to the UK to see this for herself and offer advice, given her international expertise.

"Recently one woman who fled East Congo and was detained in Yarl's Wood was perplexed to see William Hague and Angelina Jolie on British TV promoting their campaign to stop rape being used as a weapon of war in East Congo.

"Yet when she and other women like her come to this country seeking protection from exactly the same forms of violence, we lock them up."

Comments (5)

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7:26am Wed 16 Apr 14

Llanmartinangel says...

This woman clearly doesn't understand irony. So the UK is more sexist than Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Kuwait? Iran, or any Muslim country? or India, or pretty much any African state? or Russia and most of the former communist block? Why is the SWA giving this airhead column inches?
This woman clearly doesn't understand irony. So the UK is more sexist than Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Kuwait? Iran, or any Muslim country? or India, or pretty much any African state? or Russia and most of the former communist block? Why is the SWA giving this airhead column inches? Llanmartinangel
  • Score: 1

8:28am Wed 16 Apr 14

Frankfurt says...

Why wasn't she allowed to visit Yarl's Wood? What are we hiding?
Why wasn't she allowed to visit Yarl's Wood? What are we hiding? Frankfurt
  • Score: -3

8:46am Wed 16 Apr 14

Dai Rear says...

Frankfurt wrote:
Why wasn't she allowed to visit Yarl's Wood? What are we hiding?
What business had she there? is she a medic? Is she a lawyer? Is she an elected representative of any inmate? What we can say she is is that she's someone who no doubt organised her air travel so that she could come first class. As Lanmartinangel says most of the world is comprised of countries full of "isms" and "phobias" so why doesn't this woman just bu**er off and look at some of them? Maybe she'd do a bit of good. Though the UN has a very low success rate, it has to be said.
[quote][p][bold]Frankfurt[/bold] wrote: Why wasn't she allowed to visit Yarl's Wood? What are we hiding?[/p][/quote]What business had she there? is she a medic? Is she a lawyer? Is she an elected representative of any inmate? What we can say she is is that she's someone who no doubt organised her air travel so that she could come first class. As Lanmartinangel says most of the world is comprised of countries full of "isms" and "phobias" so why doesn't this woman just bu**er off and look at some of them? Maybe she'd do a bit of good. Though the UN has a very low success rate, it has to be said. Dai Rear
  • Score: 1

10:09am Wed 16 Apr 14

Mr Miffed says...

Agree with LMAngel. I spent much of last year in Australia. Look no further for sexism than there. Wasn't their female leader, Gillard, hounded out of office by male politicians? She's coming here casting stones because we are stupid enough to let her. I'd not even have let her in let alone given her airspace.
Agree with LMAngel. I spent much of last year in Australia. Look no further for sexism than there. Wasn't their female leader, Gillard, hounded out of office by male politicians? She's coming here casting stones because we are stupid enough to let her. I'd not even have let her in let alone given her airspace. Mr Miffed
  • Score: 1

8:30pm Wed 16 Apr 14

Afghan Hound says...

As an ex Newport boy now living in South Africa I have never heard of Mrs Manjoo. If as the report says, she is a human rights expert from South Africa then I sugest she has has a look at her own country. 'Boys club sexist culture' is nothing compared to some of the things that happen here as far as women are concerned.
As an ex Newport boy now living in South Africa I have never heard of Mrs Manjoo. If as the report says, she is a human rights expert from South Africa then I sugest she has has a look at her own country. 'Boys club sexist culture' is nothing compared to some of the things that happen here as far as women are concerned. Afghan Hound
  • Score: 1

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