IMKAAN PUBLISHES OPEN LETTER TO THE INEQUALITY COMMISSION FROM THE SPECIALIST 'BY AND FOR' ENDING VIOLENCE SECTOR

June 29, 2020

Dear Prime Minister

 

Re: Government Commission on Racial Inequalities

 

Imkaan is an intersectional black feminist infrastructure organisation supporting the frontline black and minoritised women and girls’ sector. For over two decades, Imkaan has been the only national second tier support organisation for Black and Minoritised women and girls with membership in England, Scotland and Wales. Our main purpose is to eradicate violence against women and girls by elevating their voices and representations in the work we do.

 

We write during a context of global protest against structural and systemic racial injustices, police brutality and institutional discrimination to express serious concern about the establishment of yet another government commission to look into racial inequalities. We believe that the appropriate government response should be to work with communities and their representatives to implement a social justice action plan addressing institutional racism and structural inequalities. Such a response should identify actions that once and for all, eradicate systems that produce racism and bring justice to those who have been subjected to this oppression.

 

We have already had a number of commissions focused on racial inequalities. These and many other reports have produced a wealth of information regarding racial inequality and present clear recommendations for social justice action addressing institutional and systemic racism in our society. If a commission has to happen, it should not be to conduct yet another inquiry but to develop an action plan to implement existing recommendations.

 

The Lammy Review was an independent review into the treatment of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system. The review found disproportionate representation from BAME[1] communities regarding who was charged, tried and punished. While BAME men and women represented 14% of the population they constituted 25% of the prison population. The review made a number of recommendations including the need for a robust system ensuring fair treatment and comprehensive action addressing institutional biases within CPS charging decisions, the court system and the prison service among other recommendations. The Lammy Review was completed and published in September 2017 presenting substantial evidence of what was wrong with the criminal justice system along with recommendations to address the injustices against BAME people. A further review of racial inequalities in the criminal justice system is not needed at this time.

 

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review was completed independently by Wendy Williams and published in March 2020.  This review focused on legislative, policy and operational decisions that led to members of the Windrush generation being designated illegal immigrants. The Windrush generation had settled in the UK for generations fulfilling jobs at a time when the British economy was rebuilding in the post-war era and needed essential workers in specific sectors. The review also focused on the hostile environment created in the 1990s and 2000s by different governments that “aimed to make life as difficult as possible for people with no legal status in the UK to encourage them to leave”. This review presented key findings and 30 recommendations including action to address unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion. The review called for “swift action, deep reflection and lasting systemic change” to address the social injustice of racism within British institutions and policies that continues to harm countless people and communities today. Not much has changed since the Windrush injustices as the hostile environment continues. A new review into the same problem of systemic racism is not needed at this time. The recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review need to be implemented.

 

Public Health England published a report in June 2020 called Disparities in the Risks and Outcomes of COVID-19. The report found that COVID-19 replicates existing health inequalities. The report focused on the intersections of socio-economic deprivation and structural discrimination. The recommendations of this report were withheld by government when the report was initially published and an appropriate explanation for this action has not been forthcoming. Imkaan’s research in which health inequalities were discussed found that “the narrative expressed in the media is one that targets communities regarding pre-existing health conditions or the so-called biological racism[2] rhetoric that black and minoritised communities are ‘simply’ prone to hyper-tension, diabetes and heart conditions among other ailments. In other words, it is their fault that they get sick with coronavirus”.[3] The report went on to suggest that “changing the biased narrative is critical to ensuring that inequalities are not reproduced by the current response to the crisis”.

 

The Women and Equalities Select Committee has launched the next phase of its inquiry into the impact of Coronavirus on people with protected characteristics. The focus on BAME[4] communities in the next stage of this review will have to examine evidence of institutional racism and structural inequality as key factors. The ongoing inquiry will represent yet another study that will inform government of wider inequalities and the racism to which Black and minoritised people are subjected.  

 

Deliver an urgent social justice action plan to address racial injustice

 

We call on the Government to draw upon the wealth of information found in the various reviews and commissions and to move swiftly towards action to address racial injustice.

 

The desired next step is to refocus the commission to developing a social justice action plan addressing institutional racism and structural inequalities. This commission should be comprised of accountable representatives from civil society, non-government organisations, charities and voluntary sector agencies and community members who understand that structural inequalities exist and that racism is institutional. There should be appropriate gender and race representation and conservative elements within communities should be avoided completely.

 

We strongly object to the appointment of any individuals to lead the current commission and any other commission who have demonstrated an underlying bias that doubts the existence of institutional racism. We feel that your advisor Munira Mirza is not the appropriate choice to run a commission of this nature and would urge representatives from the communities as identified above should be consulted on an alternative appointment.  

 

A social justice action plan addressing institutional racism and structural inequalities in this country is long overdue. We are now playing catch-up and there is no time to waste. Action is required now to heal the wounds of history through meaningful change within the structures, institutions and cultures of society.  

 

We encourage you to implement the suggestions in this letter so the work of social justice can be done.

 

Imkaan

 

Cyrene Siriwardhana, Legal and Policy Advisor, Surviving Economic Abuse

Nicki Norman, Acting Chief Executive, Women’s Aid Federation of England

Ngozi Fulani, Head of Service, Sistah Space (Sanctuary) 

Shaminder Ubhi, Director, Ashiana Network

Huda Jawad, co-founder of Faith & VAWG Coalition

Halaleh Taheri, Founder & Executive Director of Middle Eastern Women & Society Organisation-MEWSo

Fiona Dwyer, Chief Executive Officer Solace Women's Aid

Donna Covey CBE Chief Executive AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)

Zohra Khaku, Director, Muslim Youth Helpline

Padma Rao, Project Coordinator, Sangini 

Umme Imam, Exec Director, The Angelou Centre 

Girijamba Polubothu, Shakti Women’s Aid

Mollin Delve, Director, PHOEBE Centre 

Yenny Tovar, Executive Director, Latin American Women’s AId 

Gisel Valle, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service 

Sawsan Salim, Director - KMEWO

Zlakha Ahmed, CEO, Apna Haq 

Diana Nammi, Executive Director, IKWRO - Women's Rights Organisation 

Janet Bake Murungi, Rise Community Action 

Joyce Simon, Manager, Anah Project 

Sarbjit Ganger, Director, Asian Women's Resource Centre (AWRC)

Firoza Mohmed, CEO, Humraaz

Padma Rao, Sangini 

Senay Dur, Director, Imece Women’s Centre

Ila Patel, Director, Asha Projects 

[1] A term BAME is used in the original document and kept here as reference to the original text. Imkaan uses the term Black and minoritised. Other terms used include BME (Black Minority Ethnic) and POC (People of Colour).

[2] Khan, A. 07.04.20. “Third of critically ill COVID-19 UK patients from BME background” IN Aljazeera.

[3] The Impact of the Dual Pandemics – Violence against Women and Girl and COVID-19 on Black and Minoritised Women and Girls. 2020.

[4] The term used by the commission.

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