The killing of Sarah Everard shocked the nation. She was described by family and friends as “bright and beautiful”, “kind and thoughtful” and “caring and dependable”. My thoughts have been with Sarah’s family ever since we heard she was missing, and my heart still goes out to them.
Sarah’s death has jolted our society into finally taking violence against women seriously. At the Spring Conference, I delivered a statement reaffirming the Liberal Democrat’s commitment to ending violence perpetrated by men and the misogynistic culture allowing it to manifest. While the killing of a woman by a stranger is particularly awful and relatively rare – violence against women and girls is not. On average a woman is killed in the UK every three days. Most of them are killed by their partner or their ex. Male violence has become a normal part of life in the UK. No longer.
Beneath these evil killings lies a culture of normalising sexual harassment, abuse and violence. This culture doesn’t only target women, men are victims too. But 99% of the perpetrators are men. This needs to change, and it starts by changing our language. Not ‘violence against women’ as if there were no active perpetrators - let’s call it violence by men.
Male violence has become a normal part of life in the UK. No longer."
Too often men are missing from the conversation, normalising the idea that women are somehow responsible for men’s behaviour. Even now, remember how we talked about Sarah Everard “doing all the right things”? She didn’t walk home too late, she wore bright, eye-catching colours, she phoned her boyfriend - but in the end it didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what a woman does, how she dresses, where she goes, because in the end, women have no control over men’s behaviour. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling out men’s behaviour in order to end violence against women.
More than six hundred thousand women are sexually assaulted each year and only one in six report it to the police. More than fifty-thousand women reported being raped last year but only fourteen-hundred rapists were convicted. These disturbing statistics again emphasise how our culture and the courts are skewed against believing women, in favour of excusing men. Women have had enough.
The Government must address the causes of protest from gender-based violence to racial inequality"
Women are speaking up, more men should do the same. The Liberal Democrats stand with women, unequivocally and completely, in their fight to end violence by men. Liberal Democrats led the campaign to ban upskirting, and to make revenge porn a criminal offence. We are leading the charge now to make misogyny a hate crime, treated as seriously as those motivated by racism or religious hatred.
We continue to press the Government to pass the Domestic Abuse Bill - promised four years ago - passing amendments to ensure it includes all women, regardless of race, nationality or immigration status. We are also demanding the UK ratify the Istanbul Convention and upholds internationally recognised standards for preventing gender-based violence and supporting survivors.
Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams led the way, introducing a new curriculum that centres the importance of respectful, equal relationships. We want to extend the improvements to sex and relationship education across the UK, and ensure better training and resources for police, prosecutors and judges.
Women need to be listened to and supported, not arrested when attending a peaceful vigil in Sarah Everard’s name. The Conservatives want to usher in a Bill that would lead to more scenes of peaceful protesters being needlessly arrested. We are urging the Government to drop its anti-democratic Protest Crackdown Bill, and instead address the causes of protest from gender-based violence to racial inequality.
It’s time for change. In his speech to Spring Conference, Ed Davey spoke of a Britain “where women no longer have to fear harassment, abuse and violence from men”. The Liberal Democrats are committed to making that vision a reality.