Have you been harassed? WE will put a stop to it

Today is 1st March where the hashtags #ZeroDiscrimination and #ZeroTolerance are trending. It is also a time when statistics show us that one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute; two women are murdered every week by their partner or ex-partner; and only five per cent of rapes reported to the police result in the perpetrator being convicted in court.

The other day, I was harassed by a drunk man asked me: ‘are you married?’ to which I replied: ‘what if I’m not – what difference will it make to you?’ I hoped the question would bring some clarity to his own but the self-awareness created in the reflected question produced an aggressive response. So, for once, I found the willpower to walk away.

Walking away can be difficult. Even addressing a threat via a question can be scary because you do not want to aggravate the other party (even if you are wearing a badge for the Women’s Equality Party hoping it will act as a deterrent!)

Street harassment can make you feel vulnerable not only because you are being harassed, but also because there is nowhere to report it. Will such a report be taken seriously? In my eyes, violence against women and girls is as much at street level through these intimidating, drunk advances, as it is behind closed doors which see domestic abuse, violence and rape.

As a Candidate for The Women’s Equality Party (WE), we are working to create safe streets by enabling victims of street harassment to report such offences without the fear of being ignored. We believe this will enable us to understand where we need more policing too. Portugal has made street harassment a crime – we can too.

Policing and justice is extremely important in the message of zero tolerance and discrimination. Only five per cent of rapes reported to the police result in the perpetrator being convicted in court. WE want to give police advanced training in dealing with such cases so that all victims get justice.

At present, it seems we are being told: ‘been harassed? Don’t come to court’ with the introduction of fees of up to £1,200 by the government last year for claimants to pay for tribunal hearings for harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The initial fee when submitting a claim is £250. According to statistics, a third of working women have experienced discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Since the introduction of the fees, there has been an 80% fall in the number of women pursuing sex discrimination claims. These fees to do not even include those facing double discrimination, such as ethnic minorities or those with disabilities. WE, of course, will scrap these fees so that attaining true justice does not rest on one’s bank balance.

As well as advanced police training and greater convictions in court, we need greater education. I say this after Prime Minister David Cameron blocked compulsory sex education in schools because it would detract from core curriculum subjects. This is a digressive move in light of data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and based on statistics from 13 police forces in England and Wales, which show that in the 12 months to March last year, girls aged 10-14 were the most likely to be victims of rape. In the male category, boys aged 5-9 were the most likely to be victims of rape.

Also, worldwide, an estimated 246 million girls and boys experience school-related violence every year and one in four girls say that they never feel comfortable using school latrines, according to a survey on youth conducted across four regions.

WE will ensure sex education is in schools so children understand healthy relationships, healthy sexual relationships, and consent. Also, 90% of local authorities do not have a rape crisis centre. WE will ensure victims have a safe refuge and local to them so they can be safe quickly.

The statistics I have used in this article speak volumes. In order to eradicate these numbers, we need to work together in numbers to end violence against women, ensure zero tolerance towards harassment and discrimination, and ensure justice for victims. WE is a movement for everyone because it is only together that we can make a real difference.

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This weekend, I’ll be taking part in a march called ‘Million Women Rise’, spreading awareness and joining in solidarity to end violence against women. Visit: http://www.millionwomenrise.com/

I’ll also be taking part in #Sayfty chat on Street Harassment on 25th April on Twitter – so do get involved!

The Women’s Equality Party is the fastest-growing, new political party putting gender equality at the top of the agenda. Sophie Walker is our Mayoral Candidate, and the Party will also be standing 10 Candidates including myself on the Greater London Assembly (London-wide). We’re non-partisan which means you can also vote for your Political Party in your constituency and for us on your third ballot paper in the May elections! Why wouldn’t you vote to end discrimination, violence against women and inequality? Visit: http://www.womensequality.org.uk/ 

End Violence Against Women

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