Activists urge police to tackle ‘trivialised’ sexism
WOMEN’S AID charity representatives locked horns with a Tory MP yesterday who suggested that using police to raise awareness of sexual harassment and give warnings to perpetrators would be a waste of time.
Nottingham Women’s Centre manager Melanie Jeffs and End Violence Against Women Coalition co-director Sarah Green were giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee on hate crime involving misogyny, such as verbal aggression, assault and unwanted sexual attention.
They told the panel of MPs, chaired by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, that police should have more training in how to spread awareness of the need to protect women and girls while they go about their daily business.
Officers should also be trained and encouraged to give informal warnings to perpetrators after their acts have been reported.
Conservative MP Ranil Jayawardena questioned Ms Jeffs and Ms Green in a heated exchange as to whether perpetrators of harrassment should get “a second chance.”
He used the example of US President Donald Trump, who has professed to be sorry for his repeated sexist behaviour and language.
“Shouldn’t you just move on if someone apologises for their behaviour?” Mr Jayawardena suggested.
“Is [harassment] the most important issue facing our society? What’s more important, protecting children or dealing with wolf-whistling?”
Ms Jeffs responded by saying that her organisation has no women reporting wolfwhistling and that most reports concern girls and women who avoid shopping after dark, jogging or cycling for fear of harassment.
Ms Green insisted: “Street harassment and child exploitation are not mutually exclusive issues.”
Ms Jeffs said that her organisation had already held 45 training sessions with Nottinghamshire Police and called for the scheme should be rolled out across the country.
She added: “It is about sending a message of what is not acceptable in society. There seems to be an issue of sexism and it is trivialised.
“Girls and women who are harrassed are often told that this is something that just happens, especially in places such as university campuses and schools.”