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  1. Politics
26 August 2015updated 09 Sep 2021 2:50pm

Jeremy Corbyn’s plans are a step in the right direction

It's right that Jeremy has asked women for their opinions - and we can't shy away from the difficult questions, says Shelly Asquith. 

By Shelly Asquith

We have all been there. With our keys through our knuckles late at night. Purposefully sitting next to the family on the train, or getting off before the journey is over to escape an unwelcome advance. Taking a longer route home because the short-cut is a hotspot for assault. 

Nearly 90 per cent of women have experienced sexual harassment by the age of 19, and 1 in 3 have experienced it in their place of work or study – yet 85per cent of victims never report it to the police. Leered at in the street or touched up on the train; these instances are considered such a ‘normal’ daily occurrence that they aren’t being spoken of, let alone reported. Women have a choice: suck it up, take risks and be anxious, or constrain ourselves – take expensive cabs or wear different clothes. 

Street harassment goes hand in hand with gendered violence and discrimination, to keep women locked out of the advantages that men don’t even realise they have. Bringing everyday sexism and harassment into the open is vital, and grassroots groups of women are already trying to tackle it head­ on. But politicians have been slow to follow in implementing and enforcing policy. That is why I am pleased that Jeremy Corbyn has released  ideas for consultation based on what women have said – seeking to tackle this oft-unspoken issue. 

Imagine if you could send in a photo of a car numberplate and a repeat offender will be fined. Or if you report an assault, you are guaranteed the voice on the end of the phone will be a woman trained specifically in dealing with this issue. Imagine a UK-wide awareness campaign on billboards and television that doesn’t blame the the victim for how small our dress, or large our drink – but instead educates people on the effects and consequences of harassment. These are all initiatives which Jeremy has today outlined.

Only one local authority in the country has a dedicated Cabinet member for Women’s Safety: Jeremy will encourage more to create this role, whilst assigning a ministerial position to Government. Rarely do decision makers meet with institutions and campaigns seeking to tackle harassment: Jeremy will call regional summits to discuss practical steps that can be taken according to community infrastructure.

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His plan to toughen licensing laws for venues will ensure sufficient training on dealing with harassment is received by staff; and the proposal to make more train stations Incident Reporting Centres for hate crime and assault is especially welcome. These plans place responsibility on those in control of public spaces, rather than leaving women bearing the burden alone.

Women-only spaces are the topic of much debate. There have been so many women engaging in this campaign who want a solution to the growing problem on public transport, and they have asked Jeremy to get women’s views. It is right to start asking the difficult questions – and it is about time someone put this squarely on the agenda.

Sexism is deep-rooted in society. Jeremy’s policies – like properly funding women’s services, providing free childcare and ending austerity – take this challenge seriously. Sexual harassment is constraining women’s freedom, threatening our safety and undermining our sense of security. Today’s proposals signal that women don’t have to put up with this in silence and our perpetrators cannot get away with impunity. 

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