Blog by Kathryn Barr, Senior Policy Manager, Equality Commission NI
Writing in her latest blog, Kathryn Barr, Senior Policy Officer at the Equality Commission NI, looks at gender equality and a Single Equality Act.
"As we celebrate International Women's Day this week, it’s always useful to look back on how far we have come in working towards achieving equality for women in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt we have made significant progress over the last decades. But it is equally important to look forward and ensure we know exactly what still needs to be done.
The introduction of the Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970 and the Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976 were major milestones in the road toward equality for women. They were landmark pieces of legislation. They significantly improved protections for women in Northern Ireland, but like so much of our equality legislation they now offer less legal protections than those enjoyed by our counterparts living in Great Britain following the introduction of the Equality Act 2010.
Here in Northern Ireland, we currently have a patchwork of legislation that’s showing some significant gaps and inconsistencies. As a result of these gaps, people living here are unable to challenge some types of discrimination because the laws are simply not there to protect them.
As part of the Commission’s work on law reform, we have longstanding recommendations but, really, rather than try and mend a patchwork, we would be better to work towards a Single Equality Act, which would move all our discrimination laws forward at once."