Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Corrie Stein and the Women's refuge

A MAN has been jailed for 12 months after terrorising his long-term girlfriend with months of domestic abuse which could have killed her. On one occasion the 24-year-old man - a Polish national who the JEP has declined to name to protect the identity of his victim - smashed the woman's head into a kitchen cupboard while she was pregnant. And on the most recent occasion, which was the culmination of 13 months of abuse, he asked her which room she wanted to be beaten in before subjecting her to a vicious and prolonged attack.(1)

More than anything else, news stories , like that reported in the Jersey Evening Post last week, showed just how necessary it is that there is a refuge where women who suffer from domestic abuse can seek shelter and safety. The Woman's Refuge was established in 1988 in Jersey, and it was largely the vision and determination of one States member to push for such a sanctuary that eventually triumphed. The attitude of quite a few States members was that domestic violence was not a big issue in Jersey, something for families to sort out internally, and they said "Its not needed in Jersey". The struggle against that position was carried out by Corrie Stein, when she was a Deputy for the Parish of Grouville.

In the States Minutes of 17th November, 1987, the measure first surfaced, with the following reported:

THE STATES acceded to the request of Deputy Corrie Stein of Grouville that the Proposition regarding a refuge for battered
wives (lodged on 25th August, 1987 and referred to the Elizabeth House Committee) be considered on 8th December, 1987.

On 19th November 1987, the report was presented to the States.

The Elizabeth House Committee by Act dated 19th November, 1987, presented to the States a report relating to the setting
up of a Refuge for battered wives. THE STATES ordered that the said Report be printed and distributed.

On the 8th of December, 1987, the States began considering the proposition, although there was a move to the next item on the agenda which failed:

Refuge for battered wives. P.145/87.

THE STATES commenced consideration of a Proposition of Deputy Corrie Stein of Grouville regarding a refuge for battered wives and, after discussion, rejected the proposition of Deputy Sir Martin Le Quesne of St. Saviour that the States move to the consideration of the next item on the Order Paper. The States, having accepted an amendment that after the word ``property'' the words ``administered by the Housing Committee'' be deleted, adopted the Proposition and agreed that a property should be made available for use as a refuge for battered wives, on a trial basis for a period of two years initially, and that the Housing Committee should give effect to this decision as soon as possible.

But it was not until 1988, on 19th April, that the refuge became a physical reality:

Refuge for battered wives: 6
Plaisance Terrace. P.40/88.

THE STATES, adopting a Proposition of Deputy C. Stein of Grouville, supported the use of 6, Plaisance Terrace as a refuge
for battered wives.

Members present voted as follows -

``Pour'' (25)

Shenton, Ellis, Rothwell, Le Main,
Brooke, Carter.

Grouville (Charles Le Maistre), St. Clement , St.
Lawrence (Iris le Feuvre).

De La Haye(H), Morel(S), Trinity,
Rumboll(H), Grouville, Wavell(H),
Billot(S), St. Peter, Baudains(C),
Horne(H), Le Sueur(H), St. Ouen,
Huelin(B), Jordan(B), St. Mary,

``Contre'' (21)

Jeune, Binnington, Horsfall, Le

St. Peter, St. Helier, St. Mary, St.
Saviour, St. Brelade (Enid Quenault), Trinity, St.

Mourant(H), Le Gallais(S), Le
Quesne(S), Vandervliet(L), Beadle(B),
Blampied(H), St. John, St. Martin,
Buesnel(H), Coutanche(L).

The vote against the proposition has several notable politicians, including Reg Jeune, Bernard Binnington, Pierre Horsfall and Jean Le Maistre. It is rather appalling that these luminaries had this attitude, especially as two of whom became - as President of Policy and Resources - the nearest the old system had to a Chief Minister. I would hope that they've learned more about the problem of wife beating now, and would vote differently today.

It may seem surprising that there were also some women voting against Corrie Stein, including the Constable of St Brelade, Mrs. Enid Quenault and Deputy Margaret Beadle. Why on earth did they think it was not needed? Iris le Feuvre, however, the Constable of St Lawrence, voted in favour, as did Senator Betty Brooke.

However, Jean le Maistre pointed out that there may have been tactical voting involved, that it should be the responsibility of the States and that the following words

The States, having accepted an amendment that after the word ``property'' the words ``administered by the Housing Committee'' be deleted, would have the effect of causing a refuge not to be established as was intended or needed. In other words it was a tactical amendment which would have the effect of saying yes but not giving the necessary resources . By throwing it 'into the air' would probably mean that a refuge would never be established.

For all the criticism that has been levied at Senator Le Main in recent months, he voted in favour of the refuge. And it was a close vote 25 to 21, so every vote was needed.

In 2002, Corrie Stein, now a Senator, stood for re-election. In her manifesto, she outlined her part in this, and her desire to see greater fairness and less discrimination against women:

I know I can make a difference and intend to continue to make one. Through the many debates I have led on women's issues, presiding over the Sex Discrimination Committee, I created an awareness of the need for greater equality between men and women in a male dominated States. It was not easy and although not all issues have been addressed, great improvements have been made. My strength lies in bringing social issues to the fore. I was instrumental in a number of matters, including the women's refuge, minimum pay and security of tenure. I feel sad about the public dissatisfaction with the States... I want to encourage our young people to stay and return to the Island. I also want to support health care for the elderly, want to introduce PAYE and support mortgage interest tax relief only on main residences. I support our finance, agriculture and tourism industries and want to make affordable childcare more available. We must govern with long-term aims in mind, have vision, determination, enthusiasm and compassion. I have experience and I will make a difference!

But unfortunately, it was not to be, and 21 years in the States came to an end at the age of 61. The JEP noted (in a rather ageist comment) that:

The 61-year-old grandmother, who rose to prominence as a champion of women's rights was deserted by the electorate, finishing ninth.
She immediately ruled out standing in next month's Deputies elections.

The results did see the entrance of Wendy Kinnard as Senator, but it was startling how Corrie Stein had been dropped by the electorate.

Philip Ozouf: 14442
Wendy Kinnard: 12230
Paul Routier: 11687
Mike Vibert: 10624
Len Norman: 10192
Frank Walker: 9377

Guy de Faye: 7576
Terry McDonald: 7488
Corrie Stein: 7303

Looking at the hustings reports, I am struck how few of the issues that she championed were foremost in people's minds. The economy, crime, population all featured strongly, but her main points hardly got a mention:

Health Funding, introduce a new Jersey health insurance.
Long term Residential and Nursing Care for the elderly.
Housing, to provide affordable homes for our young people.
Continue to bring pressure on improving work place practices.
Continue to bring pressure on introducing maternity rights legislation.
Continue to bring pressure on a speedy introduction of long awaited minimum pay.
The introduction of PAYE.
The abolishment of Mortgage Tax Relief to be continued only for the main principal residence.
Reducing the waiting time for housing qualifications

Of these, ITIS - while not PAYE - does at least address some of that demand, and mortgage tax relief only applies to principal residences, housing qualification times have been reduced, and there is minimum pay in place. But with an ageing population, there is still much to be done to help the elderly, and affordable homes are even further out of reach for many.

In her election leaflet, she said she would support policies that:

Put people before profit.
Ensure fairness and good quality of life for all.

That, certainly, is what I think we need in any aspiring politicians, especially as GST on basic foodstuffs, and the "black hole" where one business pays tax and its neigbour does not, suggest that people and fairness are issues that the States has yet to address adequately. And there is still a need for improving equality in employment for women.

(1) http://www.thisisjersey.com/2010/08/07/man-jailed-for-domestic-abuse-reign-of-terror/#ixzz0w98IMSDL

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