After thirteen years of Tory governments, violence against women and girls has only worsened.
Police recorded rape and sexual offences are at record highs while prosecutions and convictions have sunk to all-time lows. These shocking statistics indicate the human cost of government inaction and the disastrous implications of the decay of our public services.
The government at least acknowledged these unconscionable circumstances in their June 2021 “end-to-end rape review” with its headline pledge of restoring the number of prosecutions and convictions for rape to 2016 levels by the end of the current Parliament.
But meanwhile, other indicators of abuse are already moving in the opposite direction. The government’s latest domestic abuse plan shows that fewer domestic abusers are being prosecuted under the Home Secretary’s watch.
Unfortunately, the impact of gendered violence is only too resonant for Battersea residents. The tragic kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard so close to home on Clapham Common shocked the Battersea community as well as the UK more widely.
While acknowledging these many injustices suffered by women and girls is undoubtably sobering, the situation shouldn’t cause despair, but rather, must prompt us to renew our commitment to eliminating gendered inequality in all its forms.
The Labour party have made a commitment to combatting violence against women and girls nationally, including a pledge to invest more in neighbourhood policing. But while there is only so much which can be done in opposition, local Labour governments have also been doing vital work. In particular, the Mayor of London’s Women’s Night Safety Charter has found widespread uptake in the capital’s nightlife sector, including many Battersea businesses.
However, we must go further. I have consulted many businesses, police and community stakeholders, as well as held conversations with local women and girls, including a recent walk and talk on Wandsworth Common, where we spoke about the changes they would like to see. On the basis of their suggestions, I will soon be launching my “Safe Spaces” scheme.
This program is founded in the recognition that national or municipal initiatives must be complemented by action which is both more locally attuned and comprehensive so that women and girls always feel safe, wherever they are and whatever the time.
Moreover, the initiative is prompted by the acknowledgement that addressing gendered violence isn’t just a women’s issue, but a goal that should concern us all. We all have a responsibility to protect women and girls in Battersea.
My Safe Spaces campaign will encourage businesses in Battersea to commit to providing refuge for women and girls in danger, as well as to adopt best practices to ensure that premises are secure for females at all times, whether employees or patrons.
Together, we can conclusively end the scourge of violence against women and girls.