INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day usually leaves me with mixed emotions.

It is a day to celebrate all the women who have positively affected our lives in whatever shape or form. While it is right that we take a moment to appreciate how far we have come in the fight for equality, there is somewhat of a grey cloud over these celebrations because it also serves as a stark reminder of how far we still have to go.

It is no secret that I will stepping down from the House of Commons at the coming General Election for a range of reasons. Engrained misogyny has its part to play in my decision. Until 1997, in the UK, women had never made up more than 10% of all MPs, and until the late 1980s, the proportion had always been below 5%. The proportion rose to 18% following the 1997 General Election when 120 women were elected. The current level, 34%, is the highest ever. This is despite women making up more than half the population.

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A study by the Fawcett Society showed that 69% of women MPs admitted to having witnessed sexist behaviour in Parliament in the last five years. Only 37% of women MPs agreed that the culture in Parliament was inclusive.

The National: Unions have welcomed updated proposals for the exclusion from Parliament of MPs who are arrested for a violent or sexual offence (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

I mention this not to have a usual Westminster bashing, but because these statistics are very telling. I have always argued that the make-up of Parliament should reflect that of the society we are elected to represent and govern. This is categorically not the case in the UK. The place which makes our laws and dictates the rights we have does not reflect real life. These laws are being made on the whole by heterosexual, white, middle-aged men.

Wherever there is progress, there will always be bigots just waiting to try and drag everyone back to “their place”. Be it progress against misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or racism – basically anything that doesn’t have straight, white men at heart – will face challenges. The very real consequences of this can be seen in the laws that we make. The very fact the Government makes women prove their child was the product of rape before they will provide support is barbaric.

If we look at the horrific Emma Caldwell case that has only recently come to a conclusion more than 20 years after her murder, this shows exactly how misogyny in organisations of power is dangerous.

The National: Sarah Everard was murdered by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (CPS/PA)

Fast forward to the case of Sarah Everard (above), which saw yet another women raped and murdered – this time by a serving police officer with a known history of sexual and violent behaviour. Her rapist and murderer could and should have been stopped long before she ever came face to face with him.

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If we look to America, we can see exactly what can happen to the hard-fought rights of women when the patriarchy is in full swing.

The patriarchy poisons the hearts and minds of anyone who buys into it. It creeps through every aspect of life until challenged. Right up to the point where we see the patriarchy so engrained that some women even argue against the right of all women to choose what happens with their own bodies.

Until next year, let’s make sure we are challenging the poison everywhere we see it.