The Fawcett Society have released a report and have found that violence against women and girls is intimately linked with inequality in the United Kingdom. It finds that the legal system is failing women and that fundamental reform is required.
Fawcett Society’s Sex Discrimination Law Review panel (SDLR).
This is the conclusion of the Fawcett Society’s Sex Discrimination Law Review panel (SDLR). The SDLR panel consisted of a team of legal experts and the chair was Dame Laura Cox DBE, who served as a High Court Justice from 2002 to 2016. The purpose of the panel was to review the sex discrimination laws in the UK. This was in response to the risk that long-established rights would be eroded as a result of Brexit and vacating the EU single market. It further considered whether current laws were effective and how to balance the rights of an individual with the responsibility of organisations.
Changes to the Legal System
A number of changes of the legal system are called for, including extending the definition of “coercive control” to include behaviour after separation. The legislation introduced an offence was in 2015 labelled “coercive control” but this is only where the victim continues to live with the perpetrator. The panel received evidence that suggest that some family court judges do not take domestic violence seriously when considering child contact arrangements. The new Practice direction 12J does address this issue but must be accompanied by compulsory and ongoing training for the judiciary and its impact must be reviewed.
Other new proposed offences were making any breach of a domestic abuse order a criminal offence, making “upskirting” an offence (this is the habit of photographing women in public places, using a mobile phone and taking a photograph up their skirt).
They suggest making misogyny a hate crime and strengthening the law on sexual harassment at work to protect women from harassment and extending protection from pregnancy discrimination for a further six months after maternity leave ends.
Abuse is Endemic
The Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, Sam Smeathers, states: “What we see is a deeply misogynistic culture, where harassment and abuse are endemic and normalised, coupled with a legal system that lets women down because in many cases it does not provide access to justice”.
Dame Laura Cox commented “the evidence we received, of increasing levels of violence, abuse, and harassment against women, was deeply disturbing. A lack of access to justice for such women has wide-ranging implications, not only for the women themselves but also for society as a whole and for public confidence in our justice system”.
- One in five women aged over 16 have experienced sexual assault
- In some sexual offences cases the victim’s sexual history evidence has been inappropriately used in court
- Half of all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work.
- 64% of women have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places
- There is evidence of complacency and a blame culture against women. 38% of men and 34% said that if a woman goes out at night, wearing a skirt, gets drunk and is the victim of sexual assault, she is either totally or partially to blame
- The prostitution and trafficking of women is driven by demand. This is estimated to have an annual turnover of £130,000,000. In line with the end demand campaign the report supports the introduction of the “Nordic model”, which criminalises the purchase of sex, and decriminalises its sale.
Domestic violence and the law
In 2016 there were over one million female victims of domestic violence in England and Wales and two women a week were killed by a partner, ex-partner or close relative.
The police are more likely to close domestic abuse cases due to difficulties with their evidence in comparison to other violent offences.