Women’s growing independence puts their rights to divorce payouts at risk over assumption they ‘no longer need protection’, warns Britain’s top judge
- Lady Hale, 73, said it was an example as how equality hasn’t been achieved
- Family law specialist said: ‘Domestic violence and abuse is still all too common’
- She also bemoaned the lack of women in senior positions of some professions
Britain’s most senior judge says that women’s rising financial independence is putting their rights to divorce payouts at risk.
Lady Hale, the Supreme Court president, made the claim during a lecture on women’s rights while talking to Birmingham Law Society in November.
The 73-year-old said it was an example as to how equality has not yet been achieved by women.
Lady Hale, the UK’s most senior judge, was talking to Birmingham Law Society in November
The family law specialist said: ‘Domestic violence and abuse is still all too common and, according to recent study, a frequent reason why women lose their children into the care system.
‘But the improved financial rights available on divorce are under threat on the assumption that women no longer need their protection.’
She also bemoaned the lack of women in senior positions of some professions, despite saying it’s getting better.
‘No one can claim the battle is over,’ she said.
She cited gender pay gaps between male and female workers, and systematic failures in rape investigations as well as low rates of successful sex assault prosecutions.
‘We are just beginning to recognise the phenomenon of sexual of exploitation, not just of children but of vulnerable adults,’ she added.
Lord Mance and Lady Hale, the vice President and President respectively, of the Supreme Court speak during a media briefing at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
She continued that recent changes in the benefits system in the UK have had ‘a much more serious impact on lone parents, who are overwhelmingly women.’
The 73-year-old was dubbed ‘a hero of our times’ by the world’s biggest fashion magazine, Vogue, for promoting social diversity.
Lady Hale told the magazine that she was ‘absolutely staggered’ to have become a role model.
She also praised the court’s recruitment of two further women for normalising a female presence in the country’s highest court.
Baroness Hale of Richmond, also known as Lady Hale, has become a role model for young women
She said: ‘This is not what I set out in life to be — but it’s where I happen to be. I do feel I’ve got to set a good example, both in terms of doing a good job, but also in terms of encouraging young women to make the most of themselves.’
She is the subject of a comic book now being produced by a legal charity, called Judge Brenda: Equal to Everything, which is intended to ‘inspire primary school children with the story of a girl brought up in the North Yorkshire countryside who went on to become president of the Supreme Court.’
She added although there is a long way to go, women are now in a better position than they ever have been.
She said: ‘There are now far more women in senior ranks in the public sphere – in Parliament, in the senior civil service, in the judiciary, in academia.’
And she listed a series of changes to the law including the increasing recognition of domestic abuse; the introduction of gender-neutral sex offences; and the criminalisation of rape within marriage.
Lady Hale, whose list of female achievements did not refer to those of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first woman Prime Minister in 1979, has become a figurehead for some feminists both within and outside the legal profession.
The text of her lecture has been posted on the Supreme Court website.