Some interesting issues about gender have been discussed this week. First, the Royal Succession. I will not spend long on the (rushed) bill that will enable the first born child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whether male or female, to succeed. I am sure it is a good thing that the oldest child of the King or Queen should become King or Queen, and we have done very well with our Queens. But it does raise a host of other issues, which were given short shrift in the Commons debate. Gender equality in the monarchy and elsewhere is to be welcomed, but it must follow that the transmission of other titles will have to be considered. Even if you think that titles are not worth bothering about these days, they exist, have importance for many and, arguably, help to sustain the monarchical system. So surely the oldest child of a titled person should inherit the title and the property, if any, that goes with it. And my persistent complaint – why does the husband of a woman peer get inferior treatment to the wife of a peer?
Second, Tax relief on childcare. Of course, either sex may require childcare, but it is mainly a female issue. Where I mention women in this comment, please apply it to men as well and vice versa. (Bloggers – if you think that all women should stay at home with their children, have you considered that the father should do so?) It was suggested that there might, at last, be tax relief on childcare costs. This would be of immense benefit to those women who calculate that they cannot afford to go back to work because child care costs would consume their salary. It would also be of enormous assistance to women professionals, especially doctors and nurses, who spend long years training, whose presence in the hospital and surgery is desperately needed, and who are held back from giving their full time attention to patients because of limited childcare. More women than men now train as doctors, and we cannot afford to lose them, which we do, because they cannot find or afford childcare. This is so obvious, yet the LibDems have put the boot in, and it is reported that Nick Clegg will not allow this sensible reform to go forward because it would help higher earners. It would help everyone, actually, including those who might benefit from the increased presence of doctors at work. Our child care costs are amongst the highest in the world, our childcare redtape is the worst, and many women are desperate to use their education and talents in the workplace, to help sustain their families and their mortgages, but are being needlessly held back. There really ought to be a massive protest about this iniquity.
If a man is self employed, he can claim as a business allowance the salary he pays to his secretary. If a woman employs a childcarer, why can she not claim the salary as an allowance? The secretary is regarded in tax law as necessary and exclusive to the business, but we all know that the job is more wide ranging and personal than that; the childcarer is every bit as, probably more essential to the working capacity of the woman at work. I guess that if mothers at work were allowed to choose between having a secretary or a childcarer, many would go for the latter.
Third, gay marriage. One of the grounds for divorce in a heterosexual marriage is adultery. The newly-published Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill applies the same divorce grounds to same sex marriage but specifies that adultery is to be defined as conduct only with a member of the opposite sex and not the same sex! So intimacy between a married gay person and another person of the same sex would not count as adultery. But intimacy with a person of the opposite sex does. What are we to make of that?