Tory plans to slash the UK’s contribution to women’s health programmes globally have provoked a backlash from the ‘sensible’ wing of the establishment. But their concern is pure hypocrisy. Only socialist policies can provide liberation for women.
The Tories have announced that they will be making an 85% reduction in aid going to the United Nations Population Fund service, which contributes to reproductive health programmes in poorer nations. Instead of the agreed £154m, the Tories will in fact be pledging £23m.
The effects of this will no doubt be felt for years by those whose countries have been ravaged by imperialism. Indeed, a UN representative estimated that the lost £130m would have helped prevent: 250,000 maternal and child deaths; 14.6 million unintended pregnancies; and 4.3 million unsafe abortions.
This fits the general trend of Britain focusing less on the ‘soft power’ it yields through foreign aid, and increasing its ‘hard power’ through investing significantly in military expenditure. Drunk on illusions of past grandeur, the myopic Tories hope that Britannia will rule the waves once more.
But this is not so. Britain’s importance on the world stage is diminishing. And switching from the carrot to the stick when it comes to the pursuit of British imperialism’s interests will not fundamentally change that.
When, earlier this year, Rishi Sunak indicated that UK aid would be reduced from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP, all hell broke loose. The ‘sensible’ wing of the establishment was apoplectic at this move, which they saw as Britain further undermining its global ‘reputation’ in the wake of Brexit. Many lined up to warn against such a step.
Commenting on the latest announcement regarding the UK’s contribution to the UN Population Fund, former international development minister Baroness Sugg – who resigned last year – said that cuts would “mean that women in 40 of the world’s poorest countries will not have access to the voluntary contraception that will prevent millions of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.”
Tory MP Caroline Noakes, chair of the Women’s and Equalities select committee said that the cuts were “a big mistake” and that the UK should maintain its commitment.
But for all these crocodile tears, this amounts to fussing and fighting not about aims, but methods. These ladies and gentlemen do not care about the lives and livelihoods of women abroad – and they never have.
These establishment figures support the interests of UK imperialism, which is responsible for the devastation and despair that forces millions of women to rely upon such programmes in the first place. In reality, these hypocrites are merely concerned about bad optics.
We are entitled to ask: When have the Tories ever cared about the plight of the poor? How can they pretend to be defending the health and safety of women abroad, whilst pushing through a decade of austerity that has left women in Britain more vulnerable?
It is capitalism that has created these barbarous conditions. And as long as this system remains intact, misery will forever taint the lives of ordinary women.
For all the hue and cry from the supposed ‘sensibles’, a letter to the Financial Times – signed by groups such as the Confederation of British Industry and the International Chambers of Commerce – is particularly revealing.
The letter states, in no uncertain terms, that reducing the aid budget would “reduce the UK’s credibility” and “hamper gains made on social and economic development, which are prerequisites for business to trade” (our emphasis).
The UK’s decision to cut foreign aid will ‘directly hamper’ global efforts to fight Aids, putting millions of people at risk, warned a coalition of celebrities, politicians and former heads of state in a joint letter to Boris Johnson https://t.co/4rICwT97O7
— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) May 27, 2021
The UK’s ‘credibility’ suffering, according to the far-sighted elite, is the worst consequence of aid cuts. Strip away all the pretensions, and there you have it. The cynical establishment has no real concern for the women who rely on reproductive health programs.
The UK is said to be “world-leading” and “at the forefront of global efforts to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls living in the world’s poorest countries”. But this could not be further from the truth.
This displays the blatant hypocrisy of the Tories who utter such claims on television, and then cosy up to despots and dictators in the Middle East. Lest we forget the Tories even lauding the bloodthirsty monster Mohammed Bin Salman before it became impossible not to condemn him.
How can the Tories claim to care about women’s rights, when they do little to protect the rights of women in their own country? The coronavirus pandemic has shown how easy it is for decades of progress for women to be undone. And this callous Tory government has accelerated this process through their actions over the past year.
Working-class women – being more likely than their male counterparts to lose their jobs due to inaccessible childcare – have felt the full force of the crisis. Even reproductive rights are at risk after the pandemic’s impact on healthcare systems, making some services more difficult to access.
Genuine equality through socialism
Reeling from Britain’s diminishing role as the ‘small guy of Europe’, the Tories will continue to make savage cuts without an iota of care on the impact this will have on ordinary women.
But these cuts are not ideological. They are not simply a result of the ‘nasty’ Tories being in power. Rather, austerity and attacks flow from the crisis of the system itself.
Fundamentally, the capitalism system is inherently exploitative and oppressive, and cannot provide any real, meaningful equality for women. These savage cuts should be seen as a harbinger for the attacks that the whole of the working class and the poor will face internationally for years to come.
True and genuine equality will never be achieved under capitalism. For society to progress, we must have a democratically planned economy that can provide a material basis for the emancipation of women and the working class as a whole.
On a socialist basis, it would be possible for the appropriate resources to be allocated to make healthcare services accessible to everyone. The wealth that is needed for this exists; it is a question of ownership and control.
Workers across the world must organise to overthrow capitalism and imperialism, in order to put an end to the misery and suffering that this system inflicts upon society. The fight for women’s rights and true equality is a fight for the liberation of all – a fight for socialist revolution!