A Second Woman Prime Minister for the UK, a Disaster for Women

After the resignation of David Cameron, following the UK’s referendum decision to leave the EU, Theresa May, former Conservative Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, stepped into the role of party leader. After gaining support from much of the party and, by default following the withdrawal of all other party leader candidates, she also became the second woman Prime Minister of the UK.

If ever there was an example of the problem of advocating for, and celebrating women gaining political position or power, devoid of any consideration of their political and feminist values, Theresa May, like Margaret Thatcher before her, is it.

Theresa May’s record as the longest serving UK Home Secretary in modern British politics, spells disaster for women. An opponent of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act, a supporter of public spending cuts, an outspoken critic of the handling of domestic violence cases by police whilst singlehandedly dismantling police spending, and an architect of the xenophobic and racist policies and rhetoric witnessed in the UK in recent years; the appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister is bad news for women in the UK and globally. Despite her post-appointment promises to ensure ending inequalities, injustice and ensuring an inclusive and fair society, May’s track record proves her intentions are otherwise. The scrapping of the UK’s legal requirement for public bodies to reduce inequalities through public spending and services decisions, her out-of touch views, held by so many of the political elite, that poverty is an attitude problem, an issue of lack of ‘aspiration and skills’, whilst systematically voting for a reduction in welfare spending, supporting policies such as the bedroom tax, and failing to recognize or address the very core of issues effecting women across the UK, makes her no supporter of women.

From home office vans carrying the slogan ‘go home or face arrest’, aimed at undocumented migrants, an immigration bill, that in May’s words, aimed at “creating a hostile environment” for ‘illegal’ migrants, and the rejection of an EU proposal on compulsory refugee quotas, May’s ‘vision’ of a just and fair Britain is more than questionable. In her first weeks in office, Theresa May scrapped the role of Minister for Syrian refugees, axed the Department for Energy and Climate Change, and appointed Andrea Leadsom as environment secretary, a minister who had previously vowed to repeal the fox hunting ban, and questioned climate change when appointed to her previous post as energy and climate change secretary. May also appointment Priti Patel as the new International Development Secretary, the MP who only 3 years ago called for the department itself to be scrapped, called it a department that is ‘low priority’ and stated the need to make way for trade and investment priorities. Her cabinet appointments alone paint the picture of May’s ‘vision’ of Britain.

You couldn’t make it up.

From May’s archaic continuation of the war on drugs, having been accused of covering up a study that found no link between tough laws and illegal drug use, to the tabling of the draft communications bill, nicknamed the ‘snoopers charter’, and the draft investigatory rights bill that undermines privacy and would allow authorities and intelligence agencies extreme leeway in accessing private communications, including bulk surveillance powers, and bulk communications data retention.

In 2015 May was accused by human rights organizations of allowing the ‘state-sponsored abuse of women’ at the Yarl’s Wood immigrant detention centre after a TV documentary, migrants rights organizations and feminist movements exposed incidents of mistreatment, abuse, rape, racism and violence at the centre, run by private security firm Serco, and funded by a £70 million, 8 year government contract that was approved by May. The Home Office tried to bury reports of rape at the centre, concerned that any disclosure would potentially ‘prejudice the commercial interests’ of people involved with running the centre. A planned visit to the centre by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, was blocked by May and her department.

Even with a mixed record of support for LGBT rights, voting against the equal age of consent and same-sex adoptions, but supporting marriage equality, May was worryingly considered one of the strongest Conservative leadership candidates on LGBT rights. In the leadership race, May was pitched against other candidates including anti-marriage equality Andrea Leadsom and Stephen Crabb, known to have ties to Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), an anti-LGBT evangelical organisation that advocates ‘gay cure’ therapy. In recent years, May has spoken of her support for LGBT rights, however her shaky voting record and the humiliating and degrading treatment of LGBT asylum seekers by May’s department, the Home Office, tells otherwise.

And of course, where would any ‘feminist-in-disguise’ be without their subtle anti-choice position. In 2012, May voted in support of cutting the 24 week limit for abortion, stating that she believed in cutting the limit to 20 weeks.

Theresa May is no feminist. She is anti migrant women, anti poor women and pro the status quo.

As a twitter user said recently; ‘ask the women in Yarl’s Wood about Theresa May’s brand of feminism’.

Please check out these two great reflections on what Theresa May means for the UK:

Author: 
Mari Claire Price, UK – Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice