It is no secret that we live in a world that has been institutionally created to favour men in society. Most high profile roles in society are dominated by wealthy white men and many countries continue to systematically deny women of the same rights that are apparently innate in men.
Despite this, there have been laws and individuals that have worked to bridge the gap between men and women in society and the inequalities that they face based on their gender. The #MeToo Movement has created a political atmosphere where female victims of sexual harassment, at least on the surface, are far more respected and taken seriously than in the decades earlier. Over 85% of women aged 18-24 (The Guardian) have experienced harassment on the streets of the UK. For most women this statistic is not shocking by any means, which makes the topic of this article even more appalling.
MPs like Wera Hobhouse have supported bills put forward by women in society who are fighting every day sexual harassment and sexism. At the beginning of 2019 we finally saw the long-awaited Upskirting bill pass through Parliament, which makes upskirting an illegal and punishable offence with up to two-years in prison for offenders.
Clearly, on the surface and in public, most MPs are strong supporters of laws that would help young girls and women in our society that are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. However, there is one MP who has become infamous for the exact opposite: Christopher Chope. Chope regularly blocks bills in the House of Commons that would have a huge positive impact on the lives of women in the UK, and help to prevent the discrimination and violence that they face due to their gender.
In recent months Chope has caused even more outrage through his blocking of the FGM bill. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the procedure that partially or totally removes the female genitalia and injures the genitalia, for no medical reason. Unlike male circumcision, which can have some health benefits, FGM has been proven to have no medical benefits and often results in far more complications to those who fall victim to it.
According to the World Health Organisation over 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM and it is estimated that 3 million girls are at risk of FGM every year. This clearly is an issue that effects a vast number of people and one that is not slowing down. Anyone who has looked into FGM can understand why there needs to be legislation in the UK to prevent it, with the first reported case of FGM in the UK in 2017.
However, for some unknown reason Mr Chope thought that he should, and had a right to, block a bill that would have had a massively important impact on young girls today. It is particularly ironic that Chope decided to block the bill, given the fact that he will never have to face the emotional and medical trauma that these young girls will who have FGM.
Chope regularly attempts to hide his blaring sexism under the guise that he thinks these laws should undergo ‘proper’ scrutiny, but when these laws should be universal to all in society it is arguable that these bills to do not need to face the level of debate that other laws do. Chope attempted to block the bill mentioned earlier concerning Upskiritng, and regularly votes against laws that would help the LGBTQ+ community. For example, Chope voted against making it legal for gay couples to marry. This is another example of Chope legislating on something that he will never have to deal with. He simply does not understand how incredibly brave it is for people to come out as LGBTQ+ in a society that has people like Chope who refuse to see them as equal.
Those within Chope’s constituency, Christchurch, on behalf of all women, I ask you to seriously consider how you vote in the next general election. When we work together we can remove those from our government who seek to diminish the power we have as women and systematically treats us as second-class citizens. Chope does not respect our democratic system, he simply wishes to keep himself and the rest of the white, rich male elite in power across Western society.