Parliament is more Diverse

While a lot of talk after Britain’s General Election last week has been on the Conservatives special friendship with the DUP, or the Labour Party making big increases in the number of MPs they have in Parliament, there has also been some quiet appreciation of how diverse Parliament is finally becoming.

  • 45 out of the 650 MPs openly define themselves as being LGBT
  • In 2015 there were 41 MPs from ethnic minorities and now there are 52
  • In 2015 there were 191 female MPs and now there are 208 women MPs who’ll sit in the House of Commons
  • There are no specific figures on MPs with disability
  • In 2015 only 43% of MPs were educated in the comprehensive system (i.e. not private and not selective) but that has increased in 2017 to 51% (this is compared to 88% of the UK population who received comprehensive education!)
  • Notable firsts are the first female Sikh MP, a blind MP and an MP with a richly diverse international heritage

 

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Abortion Law debated in Parliament

I was reluctant to report on this in case it confused students doing GCSE Religious Studies, but I think I can keep this simple enough.

In class we learn about the 1967 Abortion Act:

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This law basically says that abortion is illegal unless it meets the specific criteria.

Well what we sometimes skip on mentioning in class (sorry guys but time is of the essence) is that another law can affect women’s rights to have an abortion. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 makes it an offence, with the punishment a possible life sentence, if you terminate your own pregnancy. This sentence would also go to a doctor who helped you terminate your own pregnancy. A group of MPs have today won the right to introduce a bill to Parliament to change this law because they say that in today’s age when women can buy abortion pills online and get them delivered in the post they should be able to terminate their own pregnancies in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

Numerous news outlets are reporting the story, such as the Catholic Herald,  and this all comes less than a week since Tory peer Lord Shinkwin failed in his efforts at making all abortions illegal in the UK.

To what extent are Sharia Councils in Britain a benefit or hindrance?

It is estimated that around 20 to 30 Sharia councils operate across Britain, which settle disputes using an Islamic religious law. Today the influential Home Affairs Select Committee in Westminster will begin its parliamentary inquiry into these councils, providing a unique view into their little-known operations.

There has been support for the Sharia councils by Labour MP Naz Shah who aid some of her constituents viewed the discussion around Sharia councils as ‘Islamophobic and racist’. Moreover Shaista Ghoir, chair of the charity that works to improve social justice and equality for Muslim women, said that Muslim women “do not want Sharia councils shut down” and doing so would only force them to operate illegally. To gain a better idea of what Sharia councils do a group of councils have a website with plenty of information about their aims and how they try to help Muslims in Britain.

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With the other point of view the Daily Telegraph wrote in 2013 about a Panorama documentary about the Secrets of Sharia Councils which showed women being failed by the councils. The British government’s view is that Sharia law is not law in England and Wales. If decisions made by these councils conflicts with national law, then national law will always prevail. The women interviewed by the Telegraph believe that it is not the Islamic code that is at fault but the way Sharia councils interpret it, and they want them investigated and held accountable. ‘Sonia, Cara and Ayesha eventually freed themselves from their unhappy marriages – but they believe that many other women in Britain are being condemned by Sharia councils to miserable lives.’

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Any talk of Sharia Councils will bring us on to Sharia Law in general. The BBC explains what Sharia Law is and the Guardian explains about Sharia Law in an article about divorce.