The Government’s Policing Bill sets harsh prison sentences for those who attack statues – but won’t do the same for violent abusers who attack women, writes Stella Creasy MP
The murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman shocked the country and led to calls tackle violence against women and girls.
Yet the Counting Dead Women survey shows since March when Sarah was killed, a further eighty women have been murdered. Rape convictions have fallen to a record low.
There are an estimated 1.6m female victims of domestic violence.
Despite this, the Government puts the emphasis on women being more careful – offering them hotlines to ring if they want to go out at night or telling them to flag down a bus if they feel in danger – rather than tackling those who commit the crimes directly.
The Prime Minister admits more needs to be done. However, the landmark Policing Bill currently going through Parliament sets harsh new sentences for those who attack statues of women, but steadfastly refuses to do the same for those who commit crimes motivated by a violent hatred of them.
Rather than wait for Boris Johnson, a cross-party group has come together in parliament to act. A group of peers and MPs led by the former Victims’ Commissioner Helen Newlove and I are fighting for laws which would give women and girls the same level of protection afforded to others who are victimised solely because of who they are – updating our national hate crime laws to include crimes motivated by hatred of women.
This wouldn’t create any new crimes, but would mean those who are convicted of them face tougher sentences, just as those who commit racist, homophobic or ableist crimes do.
It would also ensure all police forces record where crimes are motivated by misogyny. 71% of women report being harassed in public, yet 96% don’t report this with 45% saying doing so doesn’t change anything.
Currently one in four forces record hate crimes targeting people because of their sex or gender. The evidence shows this makes a difference to the confidence of victims to come forward and gives police better information to help detect and so prevent crimes.
That’s why the National Police Chiefs Council has voted in favour of this policy being rolled out across the country – because it’s good policing practice. And it’s not just coppers who want this change. Experts ranging from major unions to women’s refuges, former police chiefs to the chair of the Justice Select Committee are supporting this campaign and calling for action now.
The Lords will be debating these proposals in the coming weeks and if they back them it will be up to MPs to accept them. The only obstacle left is the Prime Minister who has spoken against it, but offers no alternative.
The suffragettes taught us deeds not words matter. Ask your MP not to wait for Boris, but back our call to make misogyny a hate crime and put the law on the side of protecting women and girls.