Another day, another violation of human rights by a government too far removed from its people. A government which has forgotten compassion or seeks to redefine it, which enacts cruelty through tick boxes, which rationalises its ruthlessness with sound bites that shame and scorn the vulnerable. There have been too many such days and too many such acts.
Today, it is the family cap and associated rape clause – a policy which will, once again, push women and children further into poverty, capping child tax credits after a second child and removing a vital safety net. The ‘compassionate’ exception: if a woman’s third or subsequent child was conceived from a rape, she can disclose it, have a third party verifier tick the box to say that date of conception matches date of rape and fill in a ‘compassionate’ eight page form. A choice between poverty and reliving trauma. Yet the family cap and rape clause are only one part of a smorgasbord of callous policies rolled out on the 6th April, including cutting housing benefits for 18-21 year olds and drastically reducing bereavement support. The welfare state suffers another blow, and the nation shudders.
We are standing to be counted, standing in Glasgow’s George Square on a Thursday evening, standing together and standing strong. There are hundreds of us here, sporting handmade placards or banners and determined expressions. It starts to rain, and we fumble with umbrellas. Once the umbrellas are up, the rain stops. This being Glasgow, the placard action is strong. Yer clause is baws, reads one perfect, succinct summary. There is a sense of solidarity, combined with a feeling somewhere between disbelief and anger. We have stopped being shocked by the cruelty of austerity politics; there have been too many cruelties.
In four days, this protest has gone from being an idea, to a plan, to a tinderbox – lighting the spark of anger amongst the hundreds here and the thousand more watching from home. I spot familiar faces, smile and say quick hellos, brief fellow volunteers. We have two first aiders on hand. The reflective vest supplier has fallen through, so I sport the only one, make wide loops around the crowd, checking in (and greeting puppies). The PA system – the third offered to us, after late night phone calls and planning logistics – does not reach the edges of the crowd. Three hundred strong, the papers say, though I cannot tell from looking. Brilliant, bold women stand up and speak, their words and their passion spreading through the crowd like a wave.
This is just a moment, part of a much greater and longer resistance – to these cuts and clauses, to austerity, to state-mandated cruelties and media lies, to a world that seems to be turning back the clock. Every day, people resist – in small ways and big, public and private. We stand up and we are counted, and these days, I think, this matters.
UPDATE: We’re holding another rally against the family cap and rape clause this Thursday 20th April outside the Scottish Parliament – please come if you can and share widely.