Women and Equalities Committee report on sexual harassment of women and girls

Three cheers for the Women and Equalities Committee report on sexual harassment of women and girls. Action must follow at least along the lines suggested by them.

In the 21st century, it cannot be right that as a society we fail to act to control behaviours that are unacceptable because of the fear, anxiety and restriction they place on others. Yobbish, bullying and intimidator behaviour, whether in the House of Commons or in the street should not be tolerated.

The report proposes a range of measures that the Committee believes will begin to address the problem, with seven key recommendations:

  • Force train and bus operators to take tougher action against sexual harassment and block the viewing of pornography on public transport;
  • Ban all non-consensual sharing of intimate images;
  • Publish a new “Violence Against Women and Girls” strategy;
  • Create a public campaign to change attitudes;
  • Take an evidence-based approach to address the harms of pornography, along the lines of road safety or anti-smoking campaigns;
  • Tougher laws to ensure pub landlords act on sexual harassment – and make local authorities consult women’s groups before licensing strip clubs;
  • Make it a legal obligation for universities to have policies outlawing sexual harassment;

It says something about our society that this type of action is seen to be necessary. The question is, does it go far enough?

There are no requirements, for example, for schools to have to incorporate within the curriculum, any reference to preventing sexual intimidation and harassment. One case that came to my attention was of a 14-year-old who was forced to move schools when things became so bad for her that stones were thrown at her bedroom window at 1 am by boys from her school.

Nor is there anything to provide for how things are to be done. Train operators seeking to remove guards from trains, for instance, should have to demonstrate that there is no risk to female passengers in so doing.

Consultation is one of those words that seeks to comfort the observer while providing for little actual say in how things are being decided. Without a change in the law that enables Sexual Entertainment Venues to open for limited periods without permission, consultation is meaningless. Recently, in Cheltenham, there was opposition to a SEV opening in a residential area. The Licensing Committee of the local authority listened to, and agreed with us protesters, and refused the application. The club opened anyway and did so, because it could, legally, for a short-term, without consent.

Perhaps clubs like this, before opening, should have to pay for additional policing to make sure women are safe within the locality.

As Liberal Democrat Women we will campaign to ensure that women and girls are safe on our streets. We can support much of the proposals that have been made but believe the gaps must be filled.

 

* Flo Clucas OBE is the President of the ALDE Gender Equality Network and former President of the ALDE Group on the EU Committee of the Regions. She was a councillor in Liverpool City Council for 26 years.

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3 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Oct '18 - 3:21pm

    As often, Flo has a fair and sensible piece on this site, with no extreme or partisan axe to grind.

    I think from this that although we can see much to understand and strongly back here, we must be careful, as the party is in danger of real inconsistency.

    To emphasise these matters with the problems the party has different or differing views on, is nuanced but worth considering.

    We go with evidence. Evidence shows women are in real danger of that which is really dangerous though rare. Attacks such as rape, abuse, murder, maiming with corrosive substances.

    The emphasis by Wera Hobbhouse on upskirting, the emphasis by Jo Swinson of street intimidation, would be more easily supported, if balanced by something far more staunch from Sir Ed Davey, who in my view was wholly wrong to not suport the government and opposition on the offensive weapons Bills, mandatory minimumm sentences for carrying corrosive substances, he gave weak arguments, as did Cegg in government, and Laws, on knife posession.

    These are the true horrible incidents, not to negate others, but to balance and reinstate some traditional outrage at terrible people doing real harm/

    Unless this party reconnects with Mill and his harm principle, it is going to be seen for what it appears, too interested in that which does not bother the majority , or overwhelming number of people, who want those guilty of hideousness to be where they should be, in prison.

    Even dealing with such trivia as a strip club, when we have better policed, by private security guards, such clubs than we do pubs, and fewer of them than any country in the western world other than Ireland, is showing, from this committee report, the wrong priorities. Men in strip clubs are watching entertainment. Men in pubs are getting drunk and harrassing women often. The report should not be recommending the consultation of womens groups on strip clubs, but engaging with women who are victims of horror, like Katie Piper in fear of release from prison of attackers who should be in prison for life.

  • OnceALibDem 24th Oct '18 - 3:45pm

    “and make local authorities consult women’s groups before licensing strip clubs;”

    I think they mean “women’s groups who oppose licensing SEVs”

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