Friday, 19 February 2010

Pink v Grey Power at Scrutiny.

Jersey has no anti-discrimination legislation and has not signed up for many of the most important and basic Human Rights treaties like the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Yet, at today’s Data Protection Scrutiny Sub-Panel meeting/hearing in Jersey, a little bit of history was surely made for female emancipation?

The Sub-Panel consisted of Deputy Tracie Vallois (chair), plus Deputy Debbie De Sousa and Senator Sarah Ferguson with legal adviser Helen Ruelle of Mourant’s and two female scrutiny officers and the initial witnesses under examination were Deputy Anne Pryke the Minister of Health and her female, civil servant, adviser.

In other words, the entire proceedings were conducted by women.

Only the presence of your Team Voice observer detracted from the all-female activity and the question needs to be asked if there is any need for anti-gender discrimination at all if this is the future pattern of government?

Can such a degree of equality occur in other aspects of Jersey life? Is there gender discrimination at all in Jersey?

Of course, the Data Protection Commissioner for Jersey is yet another woman, namely Emma Martins and it was her proposed amendments to the current 2005 Law that were being considered and she was the final witness called at today’s session. She answered her questioners confidentially and with obvious knowledge.

What a contrast this was though with the earlier appearance and performance from Senator Alan Maclean – the Minister for Economic Development – and his male sidekick. These two smug witnesses were visibly unprepared and seemed not even to have read the proposed legislation and knew next to nothing about existing practices. They were obviously “winging it” and were a disgrace – yet they were presumably pre-briefed and had had time to prepare their answers.

Feminists should not get too excited however. This Sub-Panel (Deputy Mike Higgins had joined them by the time that Emma Martins appeared) questioned with a painfully light touch and hardly challenged any of the witnesses. There was no interrogation and Human Rights issues did not seem to be within their agenda either.
But the final verdict must wait until their report is published.

In the meantime, one observation needs to be made and that is concerned with the greyness of the proceedings.
Just like their mediocre, (usually middle-class, middle-aged) male colleagues, the initial all female grouping today wore sober grey clothes just like a uniform. More akin to a scene from the grey cabinet of John Major (that our so conservative male politicians, civil servants, lawyers and finance people seem so keen to copy) – at least women brought some colour and individuality to political proceedings.
Here just Senator Sarah Ferguson sported a bright pink top in a dull grey sea.
Is this the real future? Does female emancipation just mean equal political dullness too? Must we expect no more from women in traditional male roles?
Can we really judge the book by the cover?

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

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