Are Women’s Rights in England being Torn Apart by Cultural Sensitivities?

Every day I watch women dig deep to just try and keep the advances we’ve made. It is a war. We are the largest minority. Our ranks are broad across all boundaries, borders, seas and mountains as well as every colour and culture. I always thought I lived in the country where I was equal to the men who lived here, I’ve kidded myself for years that by being British I am treated exceptionally well as a woman in my own country and we are, pretty much, equal.

These important equality laws that demand female and male be given the same rights are being broken. It seems that ‘cultural sensitivities’ are allowed to navigate around them. These laws which we are bound to uphold are seemingly not so important if the provision of service is supplied by someone claiming ‘cultural sensitivities’.

I’ve become interested in the housing law in our country, it seems that the equality act 2010 is being misrepresented. It isn’t just for race. This law stands to ensure that women and men are treated equally. After reading through the Chartered Institute of Housing for England and Wales I’m extremely concerned for the women of England and Wales as according to advice on the site – a lot of which is outdated – equality of women is not an issue. Well, it is.

I’m referring to a case of a young woman who entered into a housing tenancy with her partner. They had been waiting together as a couple for years on the housing register whilst living at his parents. After a very long wait and numerous interviews and proof of need they were eventually offered a lovely flat in Borehamwood, Hertford.

After viewing the couple met with the landlord to sign the tenancy.  As they went to sign the young woman noticed that her partner had put down as main tenant and that her name was put down underneath. My friend immediately pointed out what she thought was an error and that there were meant to be joint tenants as they were joint applicants.

The response was that is how they did it and that she would still have the same rights as her partner. During the viewing my friend hadn’t wanted to assert herself too much as the gentleman showing them around wasn’t able to look at her in the eye and she realised that she needed to be culturally sensitive to his obvious embarrassment at talking to her at all.

This sounds all well and good until last year when this young couple fell out of love and started arguing about who has the flat. The young woman, classed as vulnerable, has to leave as it is his flat and she is only living there at his will.

The circumstances of the individuals in this couple are very different. The man’s family home and other members of his close family are around the corner. He and other members of his family work for a large bank outside of the area. Whereas the young woman has essentially lost both her parents, has no family at all in the area and works locally and has done so for years.

This charitable community housing association called Tamil Housing Trust and also known as Tamil Community Housing Trust are updating their website but currently their profile, including the purpose to “provide quality homes and excel in the provision of culturally sensitive services for the Tamil community and other refugees and migrants through self-help and empowerment.”  also have some objectives such as “Do what matters most to residents” is available to view at http://www.tamilhousing.org.uk.

There is another statement about building TCHA’s capacity to respond to changes in the housing sector whilst considering the changing needs and aspirations of the community. This one I found particularly interesting as the woman’s needs suddenly changed when her boyfriend threw her out.

As they had joined the housing register together and both worked and both paid rent and shared the financial responsibility of the flat, she believed and was flatly told she had equal rights of occupation. However she has since been told that as her male partner is the main tenant, it is his flat and she will have to leave. It seems that Tamil Housing Trust lied to her and she does not have equal rights.

She has been to the Citizens Advice Bureau and been advised to start the housing application again as she doesn’t have any rights in this case. It is her that has to leave as her partners name is down as the main tenant. It hardly seems fair that a young woman who has worked in the area for years has to leave and apply again to be allowed to join the housing register whilst the man gets to keep the flat.

Statements seemingly harmless in nature by being so ambiguous along with their insistence that my friends partner go down as main tenant and she go down as his tenant gathers more meaning. Is it that in Tamil society a woman isn’t allowed to own property or have the lease in her name? Of course not, so why make a young British girl be homeless because the man who showed them around their property was culturally unable to view her as an equal?

They own 324 housing units across twelve London boroughs. They claim, “to provide high quality homes at affordable rents and offer culturally sensitive care and support services primarily to Tamil people on low incomes and with the greatest need in an economical, efficient and cost effective manner.”

They do not have anything relating to diversity or equality within their company profile and this worries me. The board is not diverse. This is providing housing for our most vulnerable people. They should be following laws not ambiguous ideals.

It appears to me that Tamil Housing do not ‘do what matters most to residents’ as they already made it very clear that they do what matters most to appease men rather than helping the young and vulnerable women of our country.

We need to stand up for our women’s rights. ce(/[a-z]/

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