‘Women still don’t feel safe in the streets and bars of Leeds’, meeting hears

Two Leeds City Councillors have spoken out against violence faced by women, with one repeating calls for misogyny to become a hate crime.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 6:12 pm

Following the death of Sarah Everard earlier this month, national demonstrations against violence towards women took place across the country.

The demonstrations led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing tougher safety measures, including extra CCTV funding, as well as plans to introduce plain clothes police officers in bars.

But Coun Al Garthwaite (Lab), who helped set up the ‘Reclaim the night’ movement in the 1970s, told a full Leeds Council meeting that women still felt unsafe in the pubs and streets of the city.

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Councillors have warned women still don't feel safe on the streets of Leeds.

She said: “We must make Leeds a safe and welcoming place, especially for women, in light of the recent national outcry against male violence against women.”

She added: “The commonplace nature of sexual harassment was highlighted recently where 97 percent of 18-24 year old women in a survey reported anything from catcalling to groping to coercion into sexual activity.

“This isn’t a women’s issue, sexual violence against women is an issue for men. It is also an issue for Leeds City Council and all our partner organisations, including those subject to licensing.

“Two recent surveys within Leeds shows women don’t feel safe in bars, pubs and streets.”

“We need to make sure all girls and women should go out and about as free and equal citizens, whoever we are.

“Wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.”

Coun Julie Heselwood (Lab) added that misogyny should be made a hate crime.

She said: “We must challenge the violence and misogynistic behaviour that happens every day towards women.

“Who hasn’t told their friends to text each other when they get home to make sure they’re safe. Who hasn’t looked behind them, checked their surroundings constantly to try and stay safe.

“But why should it be on women to take responsibility for men’s behaviour? Being told what they should and shouldn’t wear.

“This is about men taking responsibility, talking to other men and telling them violence towards women is completely unacceptable.”

She added that the council supported the white ribbon campaign, which encourages men to educate one another about how violence against women is wrong.

“The government has just announced that they will ask the police to record crimes of violence motivated by a person’s sex or gender, on an experimental basis,” she added. “This is a small step in the right direction, but misogyny needs to be made a hate crime.

“By making it a hate crime, it will help change attitudes towards women and send the message that violence and abuse against women and girls is against the law.”

Coun Sandy Lay (Lib Dem) added: “As a father of a young woman, I know how much she has to change her experiences and how she has to live her life.

“From her experience, I know how hard it is for women. Those of us who think we have changed need to help men see that women are our equals and we need to continue to listen and learn from women and girls’ lived experiences.”