Eaves‘ representatives will not be attending the GLA’s end violence against women strategy meeting next week. Their Chief Executive, Denise Marshall, explains why, and calls on other women’s organisations to join them in their boycott:

THE THIN END OF THE WEDGE

On the 23rd June 2009 the GLA will be holding a meeting to discuss the Mayor’s strategy to end violence against women. It is expected that invited representatives from a wide variety of agencies will attend and discuss the measures proposed in the strategy, with GLA members of the ‘Health and Public Services Committee’ being able to ask a range of questions relating to the topic.

As a Women’s Organisation dedicated to challenging violence against women we were very pleased to have been asked if we were interested in attending the meeting as we saw it as a vital opportunity to inform members and to contribute to the debate. However, despite recognising the opportunity, we are going to have to turn this one down.

WHY?

Because British National Party Representative Richard Barnbrook (GLA member for Barking & Dagenham) is one of the members sitting on the ‘Health and Public Services Committee’. The inclusion of an openly racist, homophobic and sexist party representative on this committee is utterly inappropriate and therefore we have no option but to boycott the meeting.

That the BNP are even interested in a strategy aimed at tackling violence against women contradicts their much-publicised views on rape, domestic violence, and gender equality. In 2005 BNP member Nick Eriksen made his views about women perfectly clear, on his blog entry entitled:

‘Give her a slap!’

This came just a few months after writing about:

“the feminazi myth that rape is such a serious crime… Rape is simply sex. Women enjoy sex, so rape cannot be such a terrible physical ordeal. To suggest that rape, when conducted without violence, is a serious crime is like suggesting force-feeding women chocolate cake is a heinous offence. A woman would be more inconvenienced by having her handbag snatched.”

Although Eriksen was finally sacked as London Assembly election candidate, three years after making these comments, the BNP’s stance on women seems to have changed little. In February of this year Barnbrook himself told the BBC that the answer to the recession is

“for women to work at home”,

echoing one of the party’s fundamental principles that mothers “should never go out to work”, in fact “for a woman to consider a job or career more important than having children is, quite literally, unnatural.”

They go even further, explicitly stating in their 2007 BNP ‘mini-Manifesto’:

“Divorce and family laws and maintenance arrangements discriminate against men, and innocent men who are falsely accused of rape have their lives ruined while their lying accusers cannot even be named.”

Should the agencies working to challenge violence against women be forced to engage with a party who believe that women are, fundamentally, second class citizens? Isn’t it the case that any attempt to engage with the BNP or their representatives endorses and legitimises them as a political party and therefore their views on women, the LGBT community and anyone who is not ‘an indigenous Briton’?

Barnbrook and his party cannot claim to represent the women in their constituency any more than they can claim to represent anyone who is not an ‘indigenous Briton’. Furthermore, it is an insult to be asked to engage, on any level, with a party which doesn’t recognise rape as a crime; which believes that women should stay at home, and which tacitly endorses domestic violence. The inclusion of Barnbrook on this committee makes it impossible for us to contribute to the debate.

WHATEVER NEXT?

In May of this year ‘England 2018’ executives banned BNP members from future events to do with England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup, after Barnbrook turned up at their launch ‘as a representative of the GLA.’ Given the hard work that has been done to kick racism out of football this was an appropriate decision.

As an organisation we will not work with the BNP. We will not sit around a table with them because we do not believe that openly racist, homophobic misogynists have anything to contribute that is worth hearing. We will not lend legitimacy to their presence by fooling ourselves that they might be persuaded by the strength of our arguments or our passionate beliefs. We will not collude in any such charade.

We sincerely hope that the other invited individuals and organisations will support our view and boycott this meeting.

Please contact the GLA to seek clarification on how a BNP member came to sit on a committee that is seeking to tackle violence against women, and to register your views regarding the unacceptability of this situation.

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