The Equalities & Human Rights Commission has announced that it has issued compliance notices to three local authorities warning that they need to take steps immediately to address gender inequality in their community or face legal action for failing to comply with the Sex Discrimination Act. The three are Arun, Chiltern and East Cambridgeshire, and a further 14 have been warned to smarten up their act on the gender duty or face similar action.
If the three authorities concerned fail to comply with the notices they could face legal action.
The Commission's Director of Legal Enforcement, Susie Uppal, said:
"The Commission’s statutory role includes a duty to investigate possible breaches of sex discrimination law and take action where appropriate. Three councils are in clear breach of the Sex Discrimination Act. Another 14 may also be in breach of the Act for failing to properly investigate, develop plans or deliver services that address gender inequality for women. These include providing services specifically to help women who have experienced violence. These local authorities can avoid litigation action by providing a satisfactory response to our letter and taking steps to address their requirements under the Act.
“Most women who experience violence will live with the consequences, both physical and emotional, for the rest of their lives. Local authorities have a legal obligation to take a lead on assisting women who have experienced violence. Without help, the relationships, life chances and personalities of these women are likely to be damaged. Every woman should have someone to call in a crisis. They should have access to a place of safety and genuine backing in their search for justice.”
The Commission has been working on the issue of compliance by local authorities since its inception in 2006, and in 2007 published its first Map of Gaps identifying 107 councils from whom they were seeking more information. In 2009 they published the second Map of Gaps and named those organizations which did not have specialist services. The action taken now arises out of that process.