Dawn Butler MP, Member of Parliament for Brent Central and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, spoke at the Fawcett Society’s Sex Discrimination Law Review (SDLR) Panel on Tuesday in Parliament, a report which found that violence against women and girls is ‘endemic’ in the UK.
The panel was made up of a team of legal experts and chaired by Dame Laura Cox DBE, a retired High Court Justice. The report was the first of its kind and was set up to review the UK’s sex discrimination laws, considering the effectiveness of current laws.
During the panel discussion Dawn Butler encouraged one simple step women can do to help other women and that is for people to send positive tweets to female MPs when they’re being subjected to abuse. Dawn also raised double standards, saying that while men make mistakes the media often overlook or make light of it whilst women are criticised and ridiculed.
The shocking findings of the report included:
· Half of all women have experienced sexual harassment at work
· 64% of women of all ages have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places
· 1 in 5 women aged over 16 have experienced sexual assault
· In some sexual offences cases a victim’s sexual history evidence is being inappropriately used in court
· Evidence of complacency and a blame culture against women: 38% of all men and 34% of all women said that if a woman goes out at night, wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is the victim of a sexual assault she is totally or partly to blame
In response to the report Dawn Butler MP said:
“The Fawcett Society’s Sex Discrimination Law Review is a thorough and welcome piece of work which exposes the legal gaps in protection for women. The findings are deeply worrying and it shows that we need urgent action to help end this violence, harassment and abuse of women.
Labour has a proud record on progressing women’s rights and freedoms – we brought in the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and The Equality Act. However these laws clearly need updating to respond to new and increasing levels of violence against women, while there is also a risk that long-established rights could be weakened because of Brexit. In doing this we need to balance the rights of the individual with the responsibilities of the organisation.
The Labour Party had many of these recommendations in our 2017 manifesto I plan to improve our new manifesto with findings from this report until we have a Labour government.
The government must act immediately to ensure our laws are fit for purpose, ensuring women have access to a fair and just legal system. This includes strengthening protections for women who are at risk of violence, providing a means for women to bring forward cases which involve multiple layers of discrimination, and strengthening the Public Sector Equality Duty in England to ensure there are requirements to develop and report on plans to meet equality objectives and carry out impact assessments. Women deserve full and equal protection”.
In response to the findings, the Fawcett Society’s report made several recommendations of changes to the legal system including strengthening the laws on sexual harassment at work to protect women from harassment by third parties, making ‘up-skirting’ an offence, making misogyny a hate crime, making any breach of a domestic abuse order a criminal offence and extending protection from pregnancy discrimination to 6 months after maternity leave ends.