Misogyny like racism has long deep roots in this country and must be tackled.
I thank and acknowledge the successful work and campaigning of Bristol Women’s Commission, Bristol Women’s Voice, The Women’s Community Forum Somerset, and other groups. I particularly note the work done to bring in a new gender/misogyny hate crime category to Avon and Somerset. There is currently an Independent Advisory Group for Women in Bristol but I would like to see that extended across Avon & Somerset to share learning and solutions.
When considering women’s safety I think it is always important to recognise and remember intersectionality in relation to race, disability and sexuality. I would be keen to hear about women’s experiences in terms of reporting a crime and the subsequent follow up. I would also want to inspect the data to see if there are any trends or discrepancies in how crimes and complaints are dealt with against the other protected characteristics. I am committed to tackling and addressing hate crime because I believe in actively ensuring a cohesive society where difference is celebrated rather than attacked and where people feel safe.
In terms of keeping women safe from male violence I think we need strategies to deal with this systemically through education and prevention work.
As the Domestic Violence Bill is making its way towards Royal Assent, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-laws-to-protect-victims-added-to-domestic-abuse-bill there has been a massive sour in domestic violence over the past year. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. There is Home Affairs Committee Call for evidence regarding Violence against women and girls, which closes on May 11th. https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/463/violence-against-women-and-girls/
The findings of which I hope would improve the legal outcomes for victims, which includes the abysmally low rate of rape prosecutions. Victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird said in her annual report that the level of prosecutions has got so low that “what we are witnessing is the de-criminalisation of rape”. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/14/we-are-facing-the-decriminalisation-of-warns-victims-commissioner
How women are treated when they report a crime is extremely important it must be investigated in a timely manner with adequate follow up that centres victims. It is not good enough that 20% of sexual offences were wrongly cancelled between 2016-2020 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54449321
Other wider initiatives for safety relate to city and town planning and factoring in safety whether that be in parks, train stations or new estate developments, for example. Technology i’m sure will also have a part to play with the Safetipin app already in operation. https://safetipin.com
Bristol Women’s Voice are working with SARI to are conducting a survey regarding public transport and sexual harassment. We all know sexual harassment exists but getting the data & evidence helps to know the extent of it, better tackle it & put measures in place. I would like this survey to be extended out across the Avon & Somerset area and some capacity given to support this work.
In terms of Sexual Entertainment Venues, there has been significant lobbying towards a nil cap in Bristol which would mean no licensed venues. There had been a consultation carried out on 2018 https://bristol.citizenspace.com/neighbourhoods/sex-establishment-policy-review/
And I understand there will be further consultation. I think it is important that women who choose to earn a living through this work are included as a focus group so that they have their say. I have read the Bristol Women’s Commission briefing doc to BCC from a few years back, https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/s31786/Appendix%20D%20Response%209.pdf
I understand some of the concerns and arguments for a nil cap. In relation to dangerous offences and harassment of women I think it is also important to continue the work that has been started in relation to zero tolerance and the Good Night Out Campaign for example as nightclubs and university campuses have been cited as male violence hot spots, with cases of spiking and serious sexual assault.
I note the awareness raising locally by musician and DJ Ngaio, and the halt harassment campaign https://ngaiomusic.com/how-do-we-halt-harassment
I think there is some work to be done in rebuilding some confidence between police and women after recent events – Sarah Everard, sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, Blessing Olusegun, Clapham Common, and recent scenes at a Bristol protest as well I found scenes on social media really distressing one on my end is of a young woman being bashed in the face to the ground with a police shield, this is not ok and we cannot and must not go down the road of saying it is.
This was recently highlighted by artwork on billboards around Bristol by artist Niki Groom.
Other police and women issues relate to undercover relationships. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/nov/19/police-spies-may-have-had-no-choice-over-sexual-relationships-officer-claims
Representation is important, we need more female officers. Whist recruitment and retention has improved, we are still not at an adequate ratio with some data impacted by part time working.
As PCC I would actively support initiatives that attempt to tackle societal issues at the root and I recognise that this needs collaborative funding to give it the resource and seriousness that it deserves.
‘Patriarchy socialises women and girls to be liked, I don’t want to be liked I want to be free.’ Feminist giant Mona Eltahawy.