July 22, 2021, by Katie Andrews
Violence against Women and Girls is Everyone’s Responsibility
Blog by Professor Louise Mullany, University of Nottingham and Associate Professor Loretta Trickett, Nottingham Trent University, in reaction to the UK government publishing their ‘Tackling violence against women and girls’ strategy.
“As authors of the Nottinghamshire Misogyny Hate Crime research evaluation we broadly welcome elements of the government’s newly announced Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which is long overdue. Our research and that of a number of charities and organisations including the Fawcett Society, Citizens UK and Plan International UK has clearly documented the extent and impact of public sexual harassment and assault which reduces use of public spaces and constrains their behaviours, freedoms and human rights. Useful recommendations within the new strategy include a 24/7 rape and sexual offences helpline, the appointment of a policing lead on VAWG and an App for women and girls to record where they feel unsafe.
However, whilst the strategy is a step in the right direction, the government has rejected calls for a specific offence of public sexual harassment recommended by campaigners and the country is still awaiting a government decision on whether it will implement the Law Commission’s recommendation of making gender or sex a hate crime. The strategy risks paying lip service to tackling the most fundamental social and cultural problems that damage women’s safety in public. Since 2016, Nottinghamshire Police have been recording Misogyny Hate Crime, to demonstrate to members of the public that they take crime seriously; they have been followed by a number of other forces in doing so. This change acknowledges that offences already in existence that cover crimes against women and girls in public, including public order, assault and battery have rarely used to tackle such offences. Indeed, assault and battery under an Offences Against the Person Act hailing from as far back as 1861 are 160 years old and significantly out-of-date and ill-equipped to deal with modern forms of public sexual harassment.
Implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendation earlier this year to make gender/sex a hate crime, would enable the law to become simpler and more accessible. Whatever law is used, men who abuse women and girls must be dealt with swiftly, with sentences reflecting the seriousness of behaviour and programmes addressing the motivational attitudes – more detailed proposals of offender prevention and management would be welcome.
In our view, on the basis of the testimonies of women and girls that we have worked with over several years. a much more holistic response is required than what the VAWG strategy currently provides. We have previously argued ‘Women’s safety is Everyone’s Responsibility’ requiring multiple actions from all members of the community to complement proposed criminalisation. Public organisations and all individuals in society regardless of gender must take responsibility, alongside and in collaboration with police forces to tackle gendered abuse and discrimination including councils, transport providers, retail, leisure and hospitality industries, night-time outlets and sporting venues as a core part of their operational mandates.
Education is key – at the universities of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent we are building training for students and members of our communities around respect for all, elimination of sexual harassment and abuse, bystander interventions, healthy relationships and consent – many of which can be adapted for use in other educational settings including schools and colleges, along with a range of other community organisations. Our educational tools include the use of a comic based on research with women and men including personal testimonies from victims of misogyny hate crime. The new VAWG strategy is a shuffle in the right direction, but a much bolder vision with proper and sustained funding, alongside a change in the law is required if we are ever going to address the seriousness and the full extent of the issue of violence against women and girls. ”
You can read more about their research at the links below:
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