What does democracy mean to you?

21 June 2018

Click on the ‘Moments’ section of Twitter on any given day, and you’ll probably see at least one report linked to issues of gender inequality from across the globe. Last month, a pilot called out the two male passengers who made sexist remarks about her flying abilities, while in the same week scores of celebrities called on world leaders to take urgent action against global gender inequality by committing to help every girl receive an education.

A female easyJet pilot went viral on Twitter after calling out two male passengers who made sexist comments as they boarded her plane.

It has been 90 years since The Representation of the People Act 1928, which gave all men and women over 21 the equal right to vote. This wrong may have been ‘righted’, but inequality – however nuanced – still exists.

In Scotland to date, there are 45 female Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). That equates to nearly 35% of MSPs. When the Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999, 37% of MSPs were women. Until earlier this year, the figureheads of three out of four of Scotland’s main political parties were women, and of course, Scotland’s First Minister is a woman. While Scotland’s MSPs are doing better than their colleagues at Westminster where 32% of elected MPs are women, some could argue that this disparity is still too large.

The Scottish Parliament.

At the Scottish Youth Parliament, our gender gap is considerably smaller, with our census in 2017 revealing that 42% of Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) identify as female, and 3% as non-binary. While it is promising that our charity is more representative in terms of gender than our counterparts in the Scottish Parliament, we can’t sit back on our laurels. All young people deserve a voice, a seat at the table when decisions are made, and SYP is constantly striving to ensure that our work is representative of Scotland’s youth taking into account all ethnicities, sexualities, socio-economic backgrounds, and genders.

Women no longer have to chain themselves to the railings of Parliament, or be dragged into prison cells and force-fed in response to calls for their democratic rights. In the UK, at least. The fight for equality in other aspects of society, however, marches on.

More recently in Scotland, SYP campaigned vociferously for the voting age to be lowered to 16. It stood that if a 16- or 17-year-old could pay taxes, get married, have children or join the armed forces, that voting rights should be a ‘no-brainer’.

             The Scottish Youth Parliament campaigned for the voting age to be lowered to 16.

It’s safe to say that the campaign for Votes at 16 energised an entire generation of young people, with an estimated 75% of 16 and 17-year-olds turning out to vote in the Scottish independence referendum. The ‘Votes at 16' campaign – and indeed, the equal voting rights movement - have proved that creating a fair, informed, and participative society hinges on being inclusive of all of its members… not just those who are of an age where they can legally purchase fireworks or have a particular set of reproductive organs!

This week, during #EqualiTeas, we’re calling on MSYPs and their constituents the length and breadth of the country to stop and think about what democracy means to them. It’s also a time to reflect on the women – and the many men – who fought tirelessly nearly a century ago and in all the decades since to provide equal voting rights in the UK, paving the way for further democratic advancements in our country.

Who knows… Maybe one day our descendants will take part in a week of action like this one to celebrate the work of this generation in effecting real democratic change for Scotland and beyond?!

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Karen Keith's profile picture
published this page in News 2018-06-21 10:19:22 +0100