Like many of you, we are heartbroken at the events that have unfolded this International Women’s Week. 33-year-old Sarah Everard, kidnapped and murdered as she was walking home in South London (allegedly by a London Metropolitan Police officer), could have been any of us. She is so many of us. We extend our deepest condolences to all those who knew her and loved her, and to everyone impacted by her story.
Over the last few years, we have sought to tackle the same violence that has led to Sarah’s death, working to address existing gaps in provisions pertaining to gender-based abuse and to women’s and non-binary people’s right to safety in public spaces. Through our research and advocacy initiatives, we have advocated for educational interventions in schools, universities and workplaces, and for more funding to be allocated to women’s organisations. We have recommended cross-sector partnerships to fund community initiatives, gender-sensitive training for legal and law enforcement personnel, and a different approach to the media coverage of violent patterns. We have never believed, instead, in a securitarian approach to gender-based violence prevention, or that expanding policing powers might enhance the safety of women and vulnerable communities.
This week, the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a new piece of legislation handing police and the Home Secretary significantly increased powers to crack down on protests, is being discussed at Westminster. The disturbing images from last Saturday, which show male police officers detaining peaceful female demonstrators at a vigil held to commemorate Sarah in London, are now encouraging public debate on the intersections between state violence, gender-based abuse, and right to protest.
As gender-based violence experts, we are deeply concerned by the implications of this proposed reform, for both women and marginalised groups. We remain convinced that taking the streets to advance social causes (including women’s and LGBTQ+ rights) is part of the solution, and not of the problem. We equally fail to see how the broader measures foreseen in the bill on matters of criminal justice may help tackle violence against women and other forms of gender injustice. Finally, we find it alarming that the bill is being pushed through Parliament during the current public health emergency, and without a comprehensive civil society consultation.
We therefore join other human rights campaigners in asking the government to rethink its approach to policing reform.
You can support our initiative by:
-Circulating this information across your networks
-Expressing your concerns on social media
The GenPol Team