By Muslim Women's Network UK

Muslim Women’s Network UK has scrutinised the general election manifestos of the political parties and we have focused on how the parties will address some of the issues important to minority ethnic women. We put our manifesto demands via a media statement published earlier this week. In our analysis we have only looked at the manifestos for the Conservative PartyLabour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

Health and Well being
The experiences of women indicate that the healthcare system is falling short in several critical areas. Many women report that their pain is not taken seriously by health professionals, they lack access to essential information, and face long waiting lists for non-urgent gynecological conditions that nonetheless cause significant pain and affect their quality of life. These issues are even more pronounced for women of lower socioeconomic status and those from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. These groups face additional barriers in accessing care, receiving quality treatment, and achieving better health outcomes. For instance, they are more likely to be diagnosed with breast or gynaecological cancers at advanced stages and have higher mortality rates for themselves and their babies during maternity care. Furthermore, they frequently report poor mental health.

We welcome the acknowledgment of the need to improve maternity safety, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats specifically addressing the maternity safety gap for minority women. We wish one on them had recommended a Maternity Commissioner, an idea recommended in our ‘Invisible report.’ Mental health was also prominently featured in the manifestos, particularly concerning youth and pregnant women/new mothers. However, only the Green Party mentioned specialist services for minority communities. The Liberal Democrats provided the most detailed plans for health and wellbeing, and we appreciate the Conservative Party's proposal for more women’s health hubs, which are urgently needed. Unfortunately, none of the parties addressed the issue of the very long waiting lists for gynecological conditions. This oversight is significant because, when efforts are made to reduce waiting lists with limited additional funding, non-cancerous women’s health issues are often deprioritized, causing waiting times to remain high. Although tackling health inequalities was mentioned, there were no specific details for minority communities, such as addressing the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on these groups or plans to tackle long Covid.

Conservative Party
- Expand women’s health hubs
- Provide additional funding for maternal safety
- Improve access to mental health services for new mums and youth
- Recruit more nurses and doctors and build more hospitals

Labour Party
Have specialist mental health professionals in every school, so every young person has access to early support to address problems before they escalate
- Ensure that trusts failing on maternity care are robustly supported into rapid improvement
- Train thousands more midwives
- Set an explicit target to close the Black and Asian maternal mortality gap

Liberal Democrat Party
Reducing the disproportionately high maternal mortality rates for black women and eliminating racial disparities in maternal health, with a cross-departmental target and strategy
- Expanding social prescribing and investing in community projects that bring people together to combat loneliness
- Establishing a ‘Health Creation Unit’ in the Cabinet Office to lead work across government to improve the nation’s health and tackle  health inequalities
- Creating a statutory, independent Mental Health Commissioner
- Transforming perinatal mental health support for those who are pregnant, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth
- Increasing access to clinically effective talking therapies
- Extending young people’s mental health services up to the age of 25 to end the drop-off experienced by young people transitioning to adult services.Putting a dedicated, qualified mental health professional in every school
- Opening walk-in hubs for children and young people in every community
- Increasing number of GPs

Green Party
Faster access to a GP to and reducing hospital waiting lists to help with early diagnosis
- Increased funding for mental health care
- A trained and paid counsellor in every school and sixth-form college.
- Readily available tailored provision to meet the needs of communities of colour, children and adolescents, older people and LGBTIQA communities

Violence and Against Women and Girls
Violence against women and girls, both online and offline, is a pervasive issue. The Green Party’s plans to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) were the weakest, offering only broad statements, indicating that this issue is not a priority for them. The Conservatives also had a limited approach, with a single idea focused on tougher sentencing. In contrast, Labour and the Liberal Democrats presented some promising ideas. However, there is skepticism about Labour's plan to designate peak times for domestic abuse, as domestic abuse can occur at any time and specialist advisors should be available around the clock. The availability of specialist services for minority organizations is very limited and difficult to access, a concern only addressed by the Liberal Democrats. It is worrying that Labour did not mention this. Additionally, there was a lack of focus on prevention strategies, specifically measures to reduce domestic homicide rates, which are about a fifth higher for minority ethnic women.

Conservative Party
- Toughen sentencing for murders by reviewing domestic homicide sentencing
- Introduce a 25-year prison term for domestic murders

Labour Party
- Fast-track rape cases, with specialist courts
- Introduce domestic abuse experts in 999 control rooms during peak times so that victims can talk directly to a specialist
- Introduce a new criminal offence for spiking
- Introduce stalking protection orders andgive women the right to know the identity of online stalkers
- Get schools to tackle misogyny

Liberal Democrat Party
Require social media companies to publish reports setting out the action they have taken to address online abuse against women and girls, and other groups who share a protected characteristic
- Ensuring sustainable funding for services to support survivors of domestic abuse, with a particular focus on community-based and specialist ‘by and for’ services
- Expanding the number of refuges and rape crisis centres to meet demand
- Fully implementing the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, with protections for all survivors regardless of nationality or immigration status.

Green party
- Campaign to end violence against women and girls
- Tackle misogyny
- Restore trust and confidence in the police.

Hate crime and Discrimination
Hate crime has increased, especially over the last decade, with Muslims experiencing the highest rates of faith-based hate crimes, and Muslim women being particularly vulnerable. In addition to hate crimes, Muslims face anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination in the workplace and when accessing services. The Green Party has made a broad statement about wanting to tackle Islamophobia, but they will need to do more to retain the Muslim vote they are gaining from the Labour Party. The Conservatives continue to prioritise protecting buildings over protecting people and endorse Tell Mama, an Islamophobia monitoring organization that has been heavily criticised for doing little for Muslim communities and lacking transparency about their data, activities, and funding. The Liberal Democrats have presented some great ideas, but more was expected from the Labour Party, considering the historical support they have received from Muslim communities, (which has given them safe seats) and because of the trust lost with their Muslim electorate in recent months.

We don’t believe any of the political parties are serious about tackling hate crime. When Nigel Farage recently claimed that Muslims in Britain do not subscribe to British values and that 46% support Hamas, political leaders failed to condemn these dangerous and polarizing comments or to reassure Muslim communities that their safety matters.

Conservative Party
- Have committed to provide £117 million over four years for the Protective Security for Mosques
- Mentioned that they will continue to support and help fund the Tell MAMA’s work
- Will advance opportunity while tackling unfair ethnic disparities across education, employment, health and the justice system.

Labour Party
- Reverse Conservatives’ decision to downgrade the monitoring of anti-Muslim hate crime and will order police to record anti-Muslim hate crime even when it does not reach the criminal threshold
- Strengthen protections against dual discrimination and root out other racial inequalities.

Liberal Democrat Party
- Extending the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encouraging their use in the private sector
- Improving diversity in public appointments by setting ambitious targets and requiring progress reports to Parliament with explanations when targets are not met
- Exposing and confronting the stereotyping, demagoguery and hate speech in public life and the media that inflames hatred and leads to spikes in hate crimes
- Providing funding for protective security measures to places of worship, schools and community centres that are vulnerable to hate crime and terror attacks
- Bringing into force Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, requiring political parties to publish candidate diversity data.

Green Party
- Scrap the Prevent programme and tackle hate crime, misogyny, Islamophobia and antisemitism

Economic Inclusion
Society would be fairer if more money were directed towards women, as it would enhance their life chances and those of their children. However, over the past decade, resources have been taken from the poor, particularly women, and funneled into the hands of mostly wealthy men. Muslim households are more likely to face poverty than any other religious group in the country, with 40% of the Muslim population living in the most deprived areas of England and Wales. Factors contributing to this include the highest percentage of individuals with no qualifications, higher unemployment rates, lower-paid part-time jobs, and a greater likelihood of being unpaid carers.

We welcome initiatives such as increasing the minimum wage, improving childcare availability, and closing the gender and ethnic pay gaps. The Labour party has made commitments to economic inclusion for women and minority communities. Notably, we appreciate the guarantee of training and apprenticeships for all 18- to 21-year-olds, as Muslims have the lowest rates of apprenticeships. However, more efforts are needed to engage Muslim youth. Additionally, we would have liked to see initiatives to help more women return to work after a long career break, which would be particularly beneficial to Muslim women, who have the highest rates of economic inactivity. Tailored measures are necessary to ensure these women are not excluded from new schemes.

It is encouraging to see proposals from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats to strengthen the rights of cohabiting couples. This will particularly benefit the 25% of Muslim women in Britain who are in religious-only marriages and are therefore considered cohabitants, lacking financial rights when the marriage ends.

Conservative Party

  • Cut tax such as cutting national insurance
  • Increase the national living wage
  • Give working parents 30 hours of free childcare a week from when their child is nine months old to when they start school

Labour Party
- Guarantee two weeks’ worth of work experience for every young person
- Establish a youth guarantee of access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds
- Make sure the minimum wage is a genuine living wage
- Take action to reduce the gender pay gap
- Introduce a landmark Race Equality Act, to enshrinein law the full right to equal pay
- Strengthening rights to equal pay and protections from maternity and menopause discrimination and sexual harassment
- Guarantee training, an apprenticeship, or help to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds
- Open an additional 3,000 nurseries through upgrading space in primary schools
- Strengthen the rights and protections available to women in co-habiting couple Labour will provide access

Liberal Democrat Party
- Ending period poverty by introducing a right for anyone who needs them to access free period products
- Expanding access to flexible, affordable childcare
- Doubling Statutory Maternity Pay
- Expanding shared parental leave
- Strengthen careers advice and links with employers in schools and colleges
- Implementing the Law Commission’s proposals to reform wedding laws, giving couples more choice over how and where their wedding takes place, while respecting religious beliefs and practices
- Extending limited legal rights to cohabiting couples, to give them greater protection in the event of separation or bereavement.

Green Party
- An increase in the minimum wage to £15 an hour, no matter your age
- Equal employment rights for all workers from their first day of employment, including those working in the ‘gig economy’ and on zero-hours contract
- Abolish the two-child benefit cap, lifting 250,000 children out of poverty
- A maximum 10:1 pay ratio for all private- and public-sector organisations.

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