The recent calls for the founding of a feminist political party have overlooked the fact that such a party already exists. The Green Party has a tranche of women-centric policies, though it could be argued that we fail to adequately promote them.
As the current Chair of the women's sub-group within the party, Green Party Women, I have had a hand in forming many of our policies, and am justifiably proud of them.
For example, the Green Party would recognise that work consists of many tasks other than those that are currently salaried, by introducing a citizens' income for all, and a citizens' pension. These measures would significantly reduce poverty, and particularly women's poverty, and end the traps that can make returning to paid work, or doing part-time work, currently unsustainable or financially impossible. Our commitment to a living wage and an end to zero hours contracts would also eradicate poverty pay, something which women are particularly hit hardest by.
We would also introduce shared maternity and paternity leave for the first month after birth or adoption, then provide for 22 months, which would be shared so that the parent taking less time takes a minimum of six months. This would be paid at 90% of salary up to a reasonable level.
The Green Party would introduce a law to ensure that boards of major companies are at least 40% female, following the model in Norway. Furthermore, all large and medium-size companies would be obliged to carry out equal pay audits, and redress any inequalities uncovered.
In recognition of the fact that one in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, the Green Party would implement its model policy for dealing with domestic abuse, which recognises that the needs and desires of the victims must be paramount. Furthermore, we would ensure that rape crisis centres and domestic violence centres receive guaranteed funding from core budgets so that they are not forced to operate in a state of constant funding uncertainty.
The current national shortage of NHS midwives, and the underfunding of maternity services, means that women and their babies are being put at risk. The Green Party would ensure that a full range of birth options were available to all women, and that all women were entitled to the care of a single midwife throughout their maternity experience, and post-natally.
We would also work to improve the UK's breastfeeding rates, improving services to assist mothers who chose to breastfeed, and we would introduce a law with significant fines for companies whose employees attempt to stop women breastfeeding on their premises (as has been successfully implemented in Scotland).
We would also remove the anachronistic law requiring the consent of two doctors for an abortion, allow midwives and nurses who are appropriately qualified to perform abortions, and remove other restrictions that are medically unnecessary, with the aim of improving access to NHS abortions.
We would decriminalise and regulate the sex industry, offering more protection for those who work in this industry, as well as routes out of doing this type of work, if that was the direction in which an individual wished to move.
The Green Party would also institute an asylum policy that in particular recognised the potential risks to, and needs of, women seeking asylum, including issues of forced marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence.
These are just a few of our policies which are, without a doubt, feminist. But there would be little point in having such policies if we didn't attempt to promote women within the party, at all levels, in recognition of the fact that women are currently woefully under-represented in British political life.
To that end, we are aiming to have at least 50% women candidates at next year's General Election. It is worth noting that in the 2010 General Election, we fielded 32% female candidates, but this was only after a very last-minute push to get that percentage up. This was the highest percentage of female candidates that any party managed to field, though that isn't saying very much with Britain ranking a woeful 65th in the world in terms of female representation in parliament, behind such countries as Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. We also have introduced a new rule which means that if no women come forward for nomination during a constituency selection process, nominations need to be re-opened for a further two weeks to allow a woman to stand.
There is much still to do, both within individual political parties, and within Westminster more generally, to make the numbers of women in power equal to that of men. Indeed, predictions are that after next year's General Election numbers of female MPs will drop for the first time since 1997.
However, I am confident that we in the Green Party are unlikely to let the issue of equality slide, and that with our policies and our approach to promoting and supporting women within our ranks, we are the feminist party that so many voters are looking for.