Your Guide To What Each Party Is Offering Young Women In This Election

Young people are statistically the least likely to vote in the UK, with fewer than half of 18-to-24-year-old women casting a ballot in 2015. Under a third of young women voted in 2010, and women of all ages had a lower turnout than men in both recent elections.
Young women take a lot of flak for not participating in electoral politics, with the Suffragettes — who risked their lives to win women the right to vote — frequently invoked to shame those who “don’t bother” to have their say. But it’s pretty unfair to characterise young people as more interested in Instagram and avo toast than who runs the country.
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Research actually suggests young women are more likely not voting because they don’t feel represented by a parliament where — still! — only 29% of MPs are female; it makes sense that young women don’t feel they have a say when in the last decade a bickering mass of predominantly middle-aged, white, male politicians have enacted a string of cuts that have damaged the interests of women and young people the most.
But the danger is that if young women don’t vote, regardless of policy, politicians won’t prioritise passing policy to help young women — after all, it’s not going to get them elected. Young women will feel increasingly disenfranchised and the problem will self-perpetuate. It’s a vicious cycle.
So get clued up — here’s what voting for each major party could actually mean for you.
The Conservative Party
Theresa May’s ruling party has reiterated promises first made in the budget to help women return to work after having babies. A £5 million fund will be set up to support the expansion of “returnships”, a scheme that helps women rebuild CVs after a career break. The Tories have also pledged to up the number of free nursery hours available to working parents from 15 to 30 hours a week.
Another major policy is to implement a legal entitlement to take a year off work to look after loved ones on a full-time basis. As more women care for relatives than men, this is likely to affect women the most. But professional care workers — who are also overwhelmingly femalehave said the “patronising” policy devalues their work, is an excuse not to invest in social care, and it doesn’t add up anyway: the year is unpaid, leaving people who take time off without an income.
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Unlike other parties standing in this election, the Tories also have a clear track record to suggest how they might behave towards young women if they are elected again.
Tory austerity measures have disproportionately affected women in the UK, with an official analysis released late last year suggesting women have borne a staggering 86% of the impact of tax hikes and benefit cuts since 2010. If the Conservatives' austerity agenda continues, independent think tank the Women's Budget Group has estimated that by 2020 women will be £1,003 worse off each year, compared to £555 for men.
A benefits cap introduced late last year was described by the GMB Union as "a monstrous new assault on 40,000 single mothers” and in April, May introduced a two-child cap on tax credits, complete with a ‘rape clause’ which requires mothers who conceive a third child through sexual assault to prove this in order to qualify for an exemption.
As home secretary and prime minister, May has pushed for laws to end gender-based violence, including criminalising forced marriage, a plan to stamp out FGM, and new laws against coercive control. However, these laws have so far resulted in few convictions, while cuts have had a devastating impact on support services for women fleeing male violence. Since 2010, 17% of domestic violence refuges have closed.
May has also pushed an aggressive anti-immigration agenda, which has included detaining hundreds of women in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, where some claim to have been sexually abused by guards.
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The Labour Party
Labour is consistently polling higher with young people and with women than with older people and men.
Leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to create a "government for women”, with a cabinet of at least 50% women, “which fights inequality and misogyny in every part of society”. To this end, the party has vowed to gender-audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation.
However the party — which has never had a woman leader — has been criticised in the past for not having enough women in high-up positions, and for failing to adequately support women MPs who experience misogyny — sometimes allegedly from Corbyn’s own supporters.
Labour appears to have taken criticism on board, with more women in top jobs and an entire section of the party’s manifesto dedicated to gender equality.
The party has pledged to continue to ensure women have access to safe, legal abortions and it says it would work to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland.
Corbyn has also vowed to appoint a new commissioner to oversee policy on domestic and sexual violence, and to provide stable central funding for women’s refuges and rape crisis centres.
In a bid to reduce maternity discrimination, Labour claims it would reverse employment tribunal fees and extend the time people have to apply for their case to be heard.
The party would also make workplace risk assessments for pregnant women mandatory, and review support for women who have miscarriages.
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For working mothers, the party has said it will match the Tories and provide 30 hours of free childcare a week for all 2-to-4-year-olds.
The Labour Party has also made it clear it intends to fund its policies by putting a larger tax on high earners, rather than slashing benefits for people at the bottom. Women earn less on average than men and do more unpaid labour, so while women would benefit the most from many of Labour’s policies, men — who make up a far larger proportion of high earners — would pick up more of the costs.
The Liberal Democrats
Tim Farron has said campaigning against a "hard" Brexit will be "front and centre" of the party's election campaign — suggesting all other issues come second to holding another EU referendum.
However the party has said it would also help young people by reinstating housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds, which was axed by the Tories last month, and it would introduce a new scheme to help tenants buy property.
While the party’s manifesto talks a lot about fairness and equality, it says little about women specifically — although it does point out that as part of the coalition government the Lib Dems introduced mandatory gender pay gap reporting to “name and shame” those companies that weren’t paying employees equally for equal work. The party now wants to extend this to cover black and minority ethnic (BAME) pay gaps, too.
The party would extend free childcare to all 2-year-olds and it would promote flexible working to help parents.
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It would abandon the two-child policy on family benefits and in doing so abolish the Conservatives’ rape clause.
The party has played down 10-year-old remarks by Farron in which he reportedly said abortion was "wrong" and called for the law to be tightened — as it has denied accusations that the party leader thinks being gay is a sin.
The Green Party
The Green Party boldly launched a women’s manifesto on Saturday ahead of a protest outside Yarl’s Wood detention centre, which holds women migrants.
The manifesto hinged on three main things: ending immigration detention, “keeping sex workers safe” by legalising prostitution, and protecting women’s healthcare from cuts.
The party says its pledge to decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex is based on recommendations from the United Nations and Amnesty International, which claim banning prostitution makes sex workers unsafe.
The manifesto also set out plans to preserve women’s healthcare facilities, reinstate sexual health services and end pay freezes for public sector workers.
The party would roll out a UK-wide strategy to tackle domestic violence, scrap the rape clause for child benefit claimants and restore legal aid so that victims do not have to face their abusers in court.
Ukip
Ukip is yet to release its 2017 manifesto, but in 2015 and in recent local elections the party offered no policies specifically for women.
Judging by some of leader Paul Nuttall’s previous statements on women’s rights, it’s unlikely the party will do anything differently this time around.
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Nuttall has said in the past he is in favour of limiting abortions to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, telling Sky News last year that he would be in favour of holding a referendum on the issue.
He has also advocated banning women from wearing the burqa in public places.
The Scottish National Party
Under leader Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP appointed the first gender-balanced cabinet in the UK.
The party has said it doesn’t want any young girl growing up to face a glass ceiling and vowed to end gender inequality “once and for all”.
Using limited devolved powers to the greatest extent it can, the party plans to reverse some of the UK government’s welfare cuts — which have disproportionately affected women. The SNP has said it would support carers, scrap the Bedroom Tax and protect disability benefits.
It will also increase free childcare and help parents into work, and continue to oppose May’s rape clause, which Sturgeon has called "disgusting".
Plaid Cymru
The Welsh party, led by Leanne Wood, has committed in its manifesto to scrapping the bedroom tax and fighting May’s “cruel” rape clause.
Plaid Cymru would provide free full-time nursery places for all 3-year-olds, it would reverse cuts to legal aid, and bring forward new laws to protect victims of crimes such as rape and domestic abuse, allowing them to give evidence in court without being intimidated.
Women’s Equality Party
The country’s newest party will be standing for the first time in a general election this June.
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The party believes — clue’s in the name — that the UK can become the first gender-equal country in the world, and its policies are focused on achieving this.
Among its main pledges are introducing “truly shared” parental leave and universal affordable childcare, replacing the “broken” funding model for violence against women services, and making sure women’s voices are not “sidelined” by Brexit.
The party has been criticised for its stance on sex work — unlike the Green Party, it advocates for the Nordic model, where those buying sex are criminalised (but not those selling). Many experts, including sex workers, say this drives the industry underground and makes it more dangerous for women.
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