A child protection campaigner is marking the centenary of her great aunt Elsie Inglis founding the Scottish Women’s Hospitals with meetings with Ministers at the Scottish Parliament this month.
Kathy McGuinness, founder of the campaign Child’s Eye Line UK to protect children from sexualisation, was inspired by her famous aunt’s campaigning for the rights of women and children. She is hoping for a better reception than Dr Elsie Inglis got from the War Office in London in 1914.
“Aunt Elsie was told by the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, “My good lady, go home and sit still” when she offered the services of her Scottish Women’s Hospitals for the war effort in WWI,” explains Kathy. “She didn’t, of course, but went on to save thousands of soldiers’ lives with her Scottish Women’s Hospitals in allied France, Russia and Serbia and is remembered as “shining in History” by Sir Winston Churchill.”
The Child’s Eye Line UK campaign is seeking further powers for Scotland through the forthcoming Scottish Government Licensing Bill and the Smith Commission that could be used to protect children from sexualisation in Scotland; Kathy is meeting the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, and all the other political parties at Holyrood.
“It will be an emotional return to Scotland but I’m hoping it will be a significant one,” says Kathy who studied English Literature at Edinburgh University and whose family lived for generations in Edinburgh and Inverness, where her ancestors were Provosts. “I’m hopeful Scotland will again follow its proud tradition of leading the way with the law to protect children.”
In a meeting with Kathy last month, Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention, Norman Baker MP, confirmed that supermarkets who display magazines and newspapers with sexualized front covers at child height are “not observing current legislation in relation to the Indecent Displays Act 1981.”
“We have actually had huge success at the Home Office, so I think Elsie would be pleased!” says Kathy.
The meetings at Holyrood are taking place almost a year on from the 6 November 2013 Jackie Baillie MSP debate on sexualised images in the media and the concluding remarks of Shona Robison MSP (now Cabinet Secretary for Equalities) that “Dealing with such issues requires a cultural shift. We must work towards that together, as the Scottish Government cannot change things on its own, despite all the work that we are doing. We need members on all sides of the Parliament to come together and join with the women and men in progressive Scotland who want to make those changes”.
Speaking ahead of the series of meetings this month Kathy McGuinness said: “I’m delighted that all the parties have agreed to meet with Child’s Eye Line UK. We are hoping to achieve full cross-party support across the Scottish Parliament to protect children via further dialogue and legislation. This is a hugely important step toward ensuring the long-term culture change towards the sexualisation of children that Shona Robison spoke of.”
“The support of the Home Office was fantastic news,” says Kathy. “However, we feel that the law can be strengthened and go further to address the type of challenges the Scottish government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, outlined this week at the Holyrood conference on Domestic Violence when he spoke of a need for long-term cultural change to achieve the goals of Equally Safe: Scotland’s Strategy for the elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.“
Minister Baker has written to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, on Child Eyes’ behalf and received a “positive reply.” David Cameron referred Minister Baker to the Bailey Review into the sexualisation of children, “Letting Children Be Children” (commissioned in 2012), which made a series of recommendations that shops and supermarkets should ‘ensure that magazines and newspapers with sexualised images on their covers are not in easy sight of children’.
Child’s Eye Line UK has written to Scottish Ministers in regard to their submission of evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s scrutiny of the forthcoming Scottish Government Air Weapons and Licensing Bill and will be meeting Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People to discuss the proposals further.
Kathy concluded: “I’m hopeful Child’s Eye Line UK will be invited back to Scottish Parliament to give evidence on the Bill and perhaps we can get a further slot in Ministers diaries to discuss this vital approach to protecting children”.
Notes to Editors:
About Child’s Eye Line UK:
Child’s Eye Line UK is a national campaign run by volunteer parents fed up of their children being confronted with sexualized and degrading images in their local shops and supermarkets.
The campaign launched a petition in March 2013 which quickly achieved 25,000 signatures and has a busy website, Facebook and Twitter following, cross-party support and the support of all the leading teaching unions and children’s charities.
Child’s Eye Line UK recently had success with The Co-operative group agreeing not to stock lads’ mags and The Sport newspaper, which features pornographic imagery in its front page.
A recent UK government report by the Children’s Commissioner, “Basically Porn is Everywhere” 2013, found that exposure to sexualized images is “damaging to children, negatively affecting their sexual development, relationships and self esteem and makes risky sexual behaviour more likely.” The images and content found in publications like The Sun, The Star, The Sport and lads’ mags were also linked with attitudes that underpin violence against women.
On the 6 November 2013 the Scottish Parliament debated the following motion: That the Parliament notes with concern reports regarding a connection between the portrayal of sexualised images of women in the media and attitudes that reinforce sexist attitudes, sexual harassment, abuse and violence toward women; believes that this has been demonstrated by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the UK Government-commissioned Sexualisation of young people review; welcomes the No More Page 3 campaign, which calls on The Sun to refrain from printing pictures of topless women; applauds the campaign for what it considers a successful first year in operation; recognises that a motion in support of the campaign was agreed by the National Assembly of Wales and that numerous organisations, including UNISON, the British Youth Council, UK Girlguiding, the National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Head Teachers, and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have also shown their support for the campaign, and notes calls in Dumbarton and across the country for The Sun in Scotland to stop printing pictures of topless women.
Child’s Eye Line UK has submitted evidence to the forthcoming Scottish Parliament scrutiny of the Air Weapons and Licensing Bill, a copy can be found here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_LocalGovernmentandRegenerationCommittee/General%20Documents/29._ChildEyes_UK.pdf
Equally Safe sets out Scotland’s strategy to take action on all forms of violence against women and girls. While the overarching aim is to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls, it identifies key priority areas. While the strategy sets out some early commitments, it explains how a phased approach will help ensure that the longer-term change is sustained.
For more details about this story or Child’s Eye Line UK, please contact:
Child’s Eye Line UK founder