Shredded Values! Challenges Facing UK Women

What is the extent of violence against women worldwide ? What kind of violence do British women experience in society? Is the UK police trusted to contain violence against women? There are daily reports of different forms of violence, public or domestic, against women in Britain. Nevertheless, the UK government has not established a robust legal agenda to address violence against women and girls so far.

Violence against women is a global problem and has been witnessed in every society. Based on a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three women or girls around the world will experience a form of violence in their lifetime. The UN General Assembly defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or includes threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.

A form of gender-based violence is street harassment which restricts women’s comfortable access to public spaces, limits their peace of mind and mobility and abrogates gender equality and human rights. In 2013, the United Nations recognised street harassment as a serious, concerning violence against women and girls. The UN stated that women and girls are subject to violence when “walking city streets, using public transport, going to school, or selling goods at the market”. This reality of daily life restricts the women’s freedom to work or participate in political and social activities, get an education or training, or enjoy moving around safely.

Prevent “DISASTER”

Two women are killed by their partners in England and Wales every week. Around 40% of female homicides are due to gender violence. Although only 24% of domestic violence is reported, the UK police receives a call for domestic abuse every minute.

According to the Femicide Census, male violence against women is the main reason for the premature death of women and girls around the world. In the UK, during a decade that began in 2009, on average one woman was killed by a man every three days. The highest number of femicide happens in areas with the highest population, including London, Scotland, Greater Manchester, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. Following the disappearance and death of a young woman named Sarah Everard in London, the city’s mayor admitted that London streets are not safe for women and girls. He mentioned that women and girls in London experience an insecure environment in any public place, whether it is the street, workplace or public transport.

Who Is Guilty?

Based on a YouGov survey for UN Women UK, 71% of British women of all ages have experienced a kind of sexual harassment in a public place; for those aged between 18-24, this rate rises to 86%. In UN Women UK’s 2021 YouGov survey, ‘public space’ is defined as public transport, such as buses, trains, and taxis; hospitality venues, such as pubs, clubs, and bars; public events, such as concerts, sports games, and festivals; streets, parks, commons and other public entertainment spaces, plus online spaces such as social media.

Although recent studies show that workplace harassment is an issue for women in the UK, in the YouGov survey, ‘public place’ excluded the workplace and educational centres, such as schools, colleges, and universities.

Based on the YouGov study, the most common sexual harassment experienced by women in public places includes being catcalled, wolf-whistled, and stared at, or they experience unwelcome touching, body rubbing or groping, in-person comments and jokes, stalking, receiving online comments or jokes, and have their photos or contents shared without their consent, etc.

Around 71% of Women in the UK Experience Sexual Harassment in Public

Problems for women are not just confined to safety, but also their value in society. This problem leads to a type of toxic behaviour towards them. Although the equality act was passed long ago, today working women are still paid less on average than men. They also experience obstacles at work in cases such as having children. During the pandemic, the risk of  losing their jobs has been higher for women than for men.

The worst cases pertain to Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women who are around twice as likely as white women to have insecure jobs. During the coronavirus pandemic, the risk of losing their jobs has been higher for BME women. Also, an ICM survey found that around half of BME women have an everyday experience of structural sexism and racism in the UK. Women have experienced insecurity on many levels in society. After Sarah Everard’s case, women took to social media and narrated their own stories of experiencing toxic and immodest behaviours.

UK Women Experience Problems with their Values and Safety

More protective laws and measures are needed to provide better safety for women. After Sarah Everard’s death, some immediate steps were taken to improve safety for women and girls. The new announcement includes the deployment of uniformed and undercover police officers in public places like bars and clubs. Also, 25 million pounds has been allocated to better street lighting and more CCTV in towns and cities. Critics say that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has not used the opportunity to sufficiently embrace measures to confront public sexual harassment.

Critics believe that strong measures are required to identify the roots of such issues in British society. Moreover, following a recent report revealed by the Observer on sexual misconduct by the Metropolitan Police, many campaigners have said that they cannot trust the police for their safety. In this document, there is a total of 594 complaints against Met employees from 2012 to 2018. A feminist group called Sisters Uncut has been vocal about violence by the UK police and argued that police have abused their powers, with institutionalised use of violence against women.

UK Police are Abusers in Some Cases, Not Trusted to Protect Women

Violence against women and girls is a kind of violence that targets them because of their gender. Violence is experienced by women all around the world in domestic and public spaces. British women are no exception; based on statistics,  there is a domestic violence case reported to the police every minute, even though only around a quarter of all cases are shared with the police.

In case of public violence, around three quarters of women in the UK experience violence in the streets, workplace, schools, public transport, etc. Women are catcalled, wolf-whistled, stared at, or they experience unwelcome touching, body rubbing, groping, in-person comments and jokes, stalking, online comments or jokes, and their photos and social media contents are shared without their consent.

Streets are not safe places for women and the UK police not only has failed to protect them, in some cases its officers have abused women and girls. UK politicians and legislators need to take robust steps to protect women’s rights and provide a safer, more secure society for them.

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