Wpradio talks to Tessa about women and the Olympics

Erm, well wrpadio can certainly get the topical interviews. Look at this list of our new content and do tune in www.wpradio.co.uk and LISTEN to all.

Olympic Games Minister Tessa Jowell, MP, as the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport helped London win its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. Now as Olympics Minister, she is pressing the case for sports women to be able to compete in as many Olympic sports as the men.

Currently men can compete in 164 events and women 124. Ms Jowell MP, told Women’s Parliamentary Radio that she has written to the UK sporting bodies asking them to make changes by 2012 and that “discussions are at a sensitive stage” and that she is “hopeful” of making progress by 2012.

Asked by Executive Producer Boni Sones of wpradio.co.uk how actively she was pursuing the case of equality for women in sport by 2012 Ms Jowell said: “Yes, I have written to UK Sport and they are now in active discussion with the British Federations in a number of sports, but I am not in a position to report the outcome. Discussions are at a sensitive stage and I hope we will make progress by 2012.”

Olympic gold medallist cyclist Victoria Pendleton and others are supporting Ms Jowell’s campaign, which would allow women to compete in heavyweight wrestling and men in synchronised swimming.

Yvonne Ball of the British Wrestling Association said it was highly unlikely women would want to compete in heavyweight wrestling. Never-the-less Ms Jowell thinks this misses the point and that sportswomen of the future should have equality as a goal and their glass ceilings removed. . Ms Jowell continued: “I think as a feminist you have to challenge gender discrepancies all over the place… this gender discrimination is pretty well embedded, it remains embedded and we have to route it out.

photo-0003“I think this is a campaign that may need to take a long view, but I am very heartened by the degree of acceptance of the unfairness of this that I found in the discussions I have had.

“I think we will see change, change over time and of course then there is the attitudinal change among all those young women who may find themselves able to take up sports they had never dreamt there would be a place for them in. ”

Ms Jowell also said she was a supporter of the Equality Bill being published by Labour women ministers next week: She said: “It’s a very good example of what you can achieve when you get a critical mass of women MPs. When I came into Parliament 17 years ago there were more MPs called John than there were all the women in the House of Commons put together. That has changed and with it has changed the kind of policy priorities that the Labour government has pursued.”

Meanwhile, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has announced in his budget that from April 2011 grandparents who obtain a certificate will be able to get a National Insurance credit towards the basic state pension for caring for their grandchildren or members of their family aged 12 or younger for 20 hours or more a week.

Boni Sones, asked Labour’s Northampton North MP, Sally Keeble, if this was at long last a welcome acknowledgement of the years of informal help grandparents have given families and if it would help to ease the gender pay gap between men and women.

Ms Keeble told http://www.wpradio.co.uk :“These changes will make a difference to the way grandparents feel they are regarded by the State…this provides a practical help and also a social recognition for what they are doing.” She continued: “ I was always proud to be a Blair’s Babe….I have always been absolutely sure the biggest contribution I and other women MPs have made is to have been there and to have changed the face of British politics for good.”

The government is changing the laws that govern prostitution in a bid to protect women who are trafficked or “procured for gain” by making it illegal to pay for sex from them if they are being controlled in this way. The amendment in the Policing and Crime Bill, now passing through Parliament, is contentious.

Alan Campbell MP, a Minister in the Home Office responsible for crime reduction says the government is right to be taking a firm line on protecting those women who are most vulnerable, but others, including the Royal College of Nursing and the English Collective of Prostitutes oppose the measures.

The Labour MP, Lynne Jones, has put down an Early Day Motion, saying her own government’s measures are “deeply flawed”. Some think it would be better to end the criminalisation of prostitutes, which they say, makes sex workers more vulnerable. The government’s new laws would also attempt to rehabilitate sex workers by making an Order for them to attend meetings aimed at tackling addictive behavior.

Our reporter Georgie Hemmingway, spoke first to Alan Campbell MP about how the new government measures would work in practice, and then to Lynne Jones MP.

Mr Campbell MP said: “There is a strict liability measure to make it illegal for a man to buy sexual services from someone who has being controlled for gain particularly if they have been trafficked. Women who are involved in prostitution are at risk they are already vulnerable,…. particularly women and girls who have been trafficked into this country for sexual exploitation.

“There are many different views about the measures we are taking…. but there are many women’s groups who share our ambition and believe what we are doing is the right approach to reduce demand.”

Lynne Jones MP said: “The government is using the excuse it wants to tackle trafficking and coercion of women into prostitution to bring in quite draconian laws which will criminalise almost any man who wants to pay for sex.

“I think this is the wrong way to go – you cannot stamp out prostitution but you can make sure it takes place in a situation where women are protected, they are safe and they are not trafficked and that the sex trade does not cause a nuisance to other people. I think this will make women less rather than more safe.

“I would like to see the government take the Swedish approach whereas they are adopting the New Zealand model.”

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