Sofia Lopez Simpson is a second year International Relations student. Her hobbies and interests include playing the guitar and spending hours making spotify playlists.
In the United Kingdom (UK) 44% of women have experienced gendered violence. In the United Kingdom, 153,136 of the sexual violence cases recorded by police, 84% of them were against women. In the United Kingdom only 5.3% of gendered violence criminals are convicted, making it one of the lowest in Europe. In the United Kingdom 40% of women do not report gendered violence due to fear and embarrassment. Therefore, there are thousands of cases not being brought to justice. The number of cases are increasing and this growing epidemic of violence against women and girls needs to be eradicated.
Sarah Everard; Geetika Goyal; Imogen Bohajczuk. These are just three out of 81 women that have been brutally murdered from March to September of 2021. These deaths have triggered public outrage with nationwide protests demanding the implementation of laws to battle this epidemic. Additionally, the death of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan police officer, has led to the loss of trust in the police force and the government.
Despite following the protests, the UK government and Metropolitan Police have implemented policies to battle violence against women and girls, there appears to be holes in these policies which have led to the public initiative to tackle this violence.
As a response to public outrage, the UK government have promised their commitment to minimize the violence against women and girls. The Inspector of constabulary, Zoë Billingham publicly stated that “Offending against women and girls is deep-rooted and pervasive in our society. Urgent action is needed to uproot and address this, and police cannot solve this alone.” Through this statement, systemic issues are evident and are present for decades, with inaction from the British government to be able to effectively implement policies that will reduce and eventually stop violence against women and girls. The government’s new strategy announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel has come four months after the death of Sarah Everard. The strategy has included the increase of support to survivors and victims, increase the rate of perpetrators brought to justice and recruit 20 000 police officers to make the streets safer. Additionally, a 5 million pound ‘Safety of Women at Night’ fund has been created alongside a 25-million-pound Safer Streets fund to prevent violence against women in public spaces at night. These strategies show increasing effort from the UK government to work to reduce violence against women and girls. However, one needs to consider the holes within these strategies and the general loss of trust in police. This possibly implies that if there is not effective reform within the police, the trust will not be restored. Therefore, the implementation of more police officers will not guarantee safety but will create more fear amongst women.
There is a systemic issue within the Metropolitan Police that allows for the continuous violence against women and girls. On the 3rd of November 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced an action plan to battle violence against women and girls. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick expressed the need to restore women’s trust in police officers. A report was released by the Metropolitan Police on the policies that would allow for change within the police force to end violence against women and girls. This report has been heavily criticized by the End Violence against Women campaign. Different points are crucial to highlight. Firstly, the report did not include information on abuse against women and girls by police officers. This is extremely important as it would allow the Metropolitan Police to present a transparent and sincere report where they conclude by showing their commitment to eradicate this violence. Therefore, it could possibly not take into account the work within the police force that needs to happen to tackle violence from the police. This supports the End Violence against Women campaign’s argument that without working on the Met’s culture and professional standards, violence will continue as it is. Another point worth criticizing is a scheme called Safe Connection, where if a woman is stopped by a police officer, they can identify the police officer through a video call with a uniformed officer. Although it could perhaps allow for the increase in trust, it does not regard the fact that some women might be intimidated by the police officer. Also, women might not request this in fear of it leading to more violence for questioning the authority. The gaps in policy implementation from both the government and police forces have shown the importance of a systemic change within the police to gain more national trust in them. This has led the public to take initiative in reducing this violence against women and girls.
The public response to fight violence against women and girls has been crucial to allow change. For instance, the creation of the Conference to Tackle Gender-Based Violence in 2022, will allow people to gain updated information on violence against women and girls and strategies from experts in the public sector to fight violence. This conference will grant the audience the opportunity to talk to speakers from the gender-based violence sector, as well as interacting with men to work together to avert this violence. Different social media platforms have also manifested their anger towards the lack of effective policy implementation and the distrust in police. Social media campaigns like the ‘Girls Night In’ was a nationwide campaign to boycott nightclubs and demand safer nightlife for women. This shows the power of the people and how, when policy implementation does not seem to provide safety, we must do it ourselves.
On 21st July 2021, Home Office Minister Jess Phillips addressed MPs to demand the end of violence against women and girls, and how “The first responsibility of any government is the safety and security of its citizens.” The policies implemented are unknown to work in the long-term, especially when women are sceptical about the safety provided by police officers. On a positive note, there is hope that the public uniting through conferences on gender-violence and social media campaigns, will allow us to battle a common cause for women to finally feel safe. At the end of the day, she is not just someone else’s daughter, sister, or friend. She is someone. Someone who deserves security, respect and to live.
“Combating Violence against Women UNITED KINGDOM.” EIGE Report UK. Accessed November 25, 2021. https://www.itstopsnow.org/sites/default/files/2018-02/EIGE%20Report%20UK%20-%20Combating%20Violence%20against%20Women.pdf.
“End Violence against Women.” End Violence Against Women. Accessed November 25, 2021. https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/.
Henley, Rowena. “The UK Government Announced a New Role to Tackle Violence against Women.” Bustle. Bustle, July 22, 2021. https://www.bustle.com/life/the-uk-government-announced-a-new-role-to-tackle-violence-against-women.
“How Many Violent Attacks and Sexual Assaults on Women Are There?” BBC News. BBC, September 24, 2021. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-56365412.
“Met Police Action Plan a PR Exercise That Will Cause Harm.” End Violence Against Women. Accessed November 25, 2021. https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/met-police-action-plan-a-pr-exercise-that-will-cause-harm/.
“The Tackling Gender-Based Violence Conference.” The Tackling Gender Based Violence Conference. Accessed November 25, 2021. https://gbvconference.co.uk/.
UK Government. “Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy Launched.” GOV.UK. Accessed November 25, 2021. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls-strategy-launched.
Woman at London Protest. March 2021. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/17/uk/uk-women-safety-culture-shift-intl-gbr/index.html.