Wales Women’s Rights Manifesto for the UK General Election

Tuesday December 5th, 2023

The Gender Network, a forum of 80 civil society representatives, activists and academics fighting for gender equality in Wales, has today launched its Wales Women’s Rights Manifesto for the UK General Election. The Gender Network calls on all political parties and candidates to put gender equality at the heart of the election and UK policy making. The manifesto covers six areas where action is needed to protect and advance women’s rights in Wales.

Read the full manifesto here, or read on below to find out some of the key recommendations in each of the six areas.

Fair Finance

Recommendation: Abolish the benefit cap and two-child limit.

Recommendation: Reduce the severity and length of sanctions.

Why does this matter? 

Across the UK, women are more likely to rely on social security and have historically borne the brunt of welfare cuts. The introduction of Universal Credit (UC), together with measures like the benefit cap, the two-child limit and the rising costs of living have made this worse. Wales has the highest poverty rates in the UK, which makes women in Wales particularly vulnerable to problems with a social security system that is under the control of the UK Government. Urgent reforms by those who have the power to fix this broken system are needed to make the benefits system work for women.

Caring responsibilities

Recommendation: Invest 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in childcare and social care. 

Why does this matter? 

Care work – paid and unpaid – is the backbone of our economy, and it is mainly women who provide it. Yet the sector is in crisis, many people cannot access childcare or social care, and parents and unpaid carers are left to struggle without the right support. Research shows that a UK Government investment of 2.5% of (GDP) in childcare and social care would create over 2 million well-paid jobs, increase overall employment and reduce gender inequality. Such investments would increase the budgets in the devolved nations, which could be used locally to expand high-quality childcare and social care in Wales. 

Representation and leadership

Recommendation: Implement Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010.

This would require every political party to collect equality monitoring data on their candidates.

Recommendation: Introduce an independent process with meaningful sanctions to deal with allegations of violence or harassment. 

Why does this matter? 

Women remain underrepresented at all levels of democracy, and those who put themselves forward are often targeted with harassment and abuse. This is especially stark for women who face intersecting discrimination on grounds such as race disability or being LGBTQ+. To effectively tackle these issues, we need better data and robust procedures for dealing with allegations of harassment and abuse. 

Tackling gender health inequalities

Recommendation: Ensure that UK-based clinical trials include 50% women.

Why does this matter? 

Women live longer than men, but they spend fewer years in good health, wait longer for a diagnosis and are more likely to be misdiagnosed or dismissed. This comes as no surprise, because women are routinely underrepresented in clinical trials and their health problems therefore poorly understood. While health is devolved to Wales, much of the research that informs the work of our NHS is directly funded by the UK Government. We urgently need targeted investment in high quality research to fill the data gaps on women’s health.  

Ending violence against women and girls

Recommendation: Make misogyny a hate crime.

Recommendation: Implement a firewall between immigration enforcement and statutory services. 

Why does this matter? 

Violence against women is endemic in our society, yet conviction rates for rape and sexual assault have almost halved between 2016-17 and 2020-21. Making misogyny a hate crime, as is already the case for crimes based on someone’s race, disability or sexual orientation, could facilitate tougher sentencing and help capture the root causes of crimes against women. Migrant women with an insecure immigration status are at particular risk of gender-based violence. But they often do not contact the police or specialist services out of fear of being reported to immigration enforcement. We urgently need a firewall that prohibits such data being shared, because all women, regardless of their immigration status, deserve support and protection from violence.   

Women’s rights

Recommendation: Decriminalise abortion.

Bring forward legislation to decriminalise women who end their own pregnancy in England and Wales, as Westminster has already done for Northern Ireland. 

Why does this matter? 

Women across the UK were shocked by the decision to sentence a mother-of-three to 28 months in prison for using abortion pills to end her own pregnancy after the legal limit. The prison sentence has since been overturned, but the law that made the sentence possible, which dates back to 1861, is still in place. We urgently need legal reform so that women in Great Britain are no longer threatened with up to life imprisonment when trying to access reproductive healthcare. While a 2019 vote of Westminster MPs amended the law in Northern Ireland to decriminalise abortion, the rest of the UK remains governed by archaic legislation dating back over 50 years. 


The Gender Network is coordinated by Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales. 

Read the full manifesto and list of recommendations here.