Violence against women and girls is “endemic” in the UK, a leading gender equality campaigner has warned as it calls for the legal system to be overhauled as it is “failing” women.
A report by the Fawcett Society, the first of its kind, examined laws that risked being undermined by Brexit and workplace protections, and found:
- 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.
- 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.
The organisation’s Sex Discrimination Law Review Panel, chaired by retired High Court Justice Dame Laura Cox, calls for a number of reforms to the legal system.
They include strengthening the laws on sexual harassment at work to protect women from harassment by third parties, making ‘up-skirting’ an offence, and making any breach of a domestic abuse order a criminal offence.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “What we see is a deeply misogynistic culture where harassment and abuse are endemic and normalised coupled with a legal system that lets women down because in many cases it doesn’t provide access to justice.”
Dame Laura Cox added: “The evidence we received, of increasing levels of violence, abuse and harassment against women, was deeply disturbing.
“A lack of access to justice for such women has wide-ranging implications not only for the women themselves, but also for society as a whole and for public confidence in our justice system.”
The evidence we received, of increasing levels of violence, abuse and harassment against women, was deeply disturbing Dame Laura Cox
In response, Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee of MPs, said: “We need a revolution in the workplace to ensure fairness for women, men and their families.
“Closing the gender pay gap, improving take up of shared parental leave and providing more opportunities for flexible working all play an important role as our own reports have found.
“We are currently carrying out work on sexual harassment and our fathers and the workplace inquiry will be reporting soon.”