In tonight’s Dispatch: Saudi Arabia is accused of running a “smear campaign” against women who campaigned for the right to drive, and the UK government is criticised for not delivering clear guidelines on discriminatory office dress codes.
Plus: a new report highlights the issue of sexual exploitation in the UK, and Meghan Markle reaffirms her commitment to feminist causes.
Saudi Arabia running “smear campaign” against right-to-drive activists
In Friday’s Dispatch, we brought you the news that a group of women had been arrested in Saudi Arabia after campaigning for the right to drive - even though women will legally be allowed to get behind the wheel in the kingdom from 24 June.
Now, international human rights observers have criticised the Saudi government for leading a “smear campaign” against women who advocated for an end to the driving ban.
It was confirmed on Monday that 10 people have been detained and accused of working with “foreign entities”. The group is believed to include women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Emam al-Nafjan, both of whom campaigned against the driving ban and pushed for an end to Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system.
Amnesty International says that state-linked media outlets have published the photos and names of the detained women, prompting a hashtag on social media denouncing them as “Agents of Embassies” (suggesting they have betrayed the state).
“This chilling smear campaign is an extremely worrying development for women human rights defenders and activists in Saudi Arabia. Such blatant intimidation tactics are entirely unjustifiable,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.
Read more on this story here.
Government criticised for vague guidelines against discriminatory dress codes
Lawyers have criticised the Government’s newly-released guidance for employers on how to ensure workplace dress codes are not discriminatory, saying that the advice is too vague and likely to be difficult to enforce.
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) published a report titled Dress Codes and Sex Discrimination - What You Need to Know at the end of last week, after the women and equalities committee asked it to provide advice to employers on dress codes and anti-discrimination laws.
“In fairness, the government’s new guide on dress codes and sex discrimination does say: ‘It is best to avoid gender prescriptive requirements; for example, the requirement to wear high heels. Any requirement to wear make-up, skirts, have manicured nails, certain hairstyles or specific types of hosiery is likely to be unlawful,’” said Beverley Sunderland, managing director at Crossland Employment Solicitors.
“However, the use of the words ‘it is best to’ and ‘likely to be’ reinforces the view of the women and equalities committee, which spent a lot of time talking to those who do have a grasp on what employers understand – that the law was not clear enough.”
People Management magazine has more on this story here.
Sexual exploitation of women in ‘pop-up brothels’ is more common than we think
A new report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on prostitution and the global sex trade has warned that vulnerable women are being sexually exploited on a massive scale in the UK.
The report raises concerns about the presence of “pop-up brothels”, which are often set up in residential properties using short-term leases, allowing gangs to evade police more easily.
“A revolving door of vulnerable women, predominantly from eastern Europe, are being supplied by trafficking gangs into residential properties and hotels in order to be exploited by UK men,” said Gavin Shuker, the Labour MP for Luton South and the chairman of the APPG.
He added that a “minority of men in the UK who pay to sexually access women’s bodies… are funding sex trafficking and driving this form of modern-day slavery.”
The APPG is calling on the government to criminalise people who pay for sex rather than those who sell it, and to stop websites advertising and making money off sex work.
Read more on this story at The Guardian.
Meghan Markle will keep fighting for women’s rights as Duchess of Sussex
Meghan Markle has confirmed that she will continue advocating for women’s rights in her new role as the Duchess of Sussex.
The former actress and humanitarian, who married Prince Harry on Saturday (20 May), has had her official biography shared on the Royal Family website. It states that she has a “lifelong commitment to causes such as social justice and women’s empowerment”, and highlights her role as the UN Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership and her work advocating for girls’ education with the charity World Vision.
The page also emphasises a quote from Meghan in 2015, in which she says: “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.”
The move has been interpreted as a clear sign that the Royal Family will not prevent Meghan from working on issues related to women’s empowerment.
Read more on this story here.
Stylist’s Visible Women campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of women who’ve made a difference, celebrating their success, and empowering future generations to follow their lead. See more from Visible Women here.
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