Major campaign groups who have spent years tackling the growing problem of violence against women and girls are growing increasingly frustrated with the Home Secretary’s apparent lack of action six months after the government announced a major strategy designed to tackle the problem.
Despite the promise of a ‘radical change agenda’ announced by Priti Patel at the end of July last year, campaigners say a number of core commitments have disappeared without a trace, or have not been implemented implemented, without proper explanation.
The strategy was announced amid widespread calls for urgent and sweeping change following the murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed on her way home from a friend’s house in south London several months earlier. Those calls were repeated this month following the murder of schoolteacher Ashling Murphy in Ireland.
The 23-year-old was attacked and strangled while jogging on a canal path near Tullamore, County Offaly. Last Wednesday, a week after her death, a 31-year-old man was taken into custody for her murder.
Georgie Laming, campaign manager at Plan International UK, whose campaign to make public sexual harassment a specific offense has 500,000 supporters, said: “It’s been six months since the Home Secretary promised a review of the loopholes public sexual harassment, and a decision on a new law to criminalize it. But we don’t see any movement yet. Women and girls can no longer afford to wait.
Saskia Garner, Policy and Campaigns Manager at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: “We would appreciate an update on all of the commitments made under the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. All of these issues need to be addressed urgently to ensure that the voices of women and girls who are victims of devastating crimes, including harassment and harassment, are heard. »
Another source said: “There is deep frustration with the apparent progress on the elements of the strategy.
“The fact is, women are still being killed in high profile murders every few months, but there doesn’t seem to be a burning desire to deliver key pieces.”
Chief among their concerns is the result of a legal review undertaken by the Home Office into gaps in existing legislation and how a specific offense of public sexual harassment could address them. Sources say there is still no timetable for when the review will end, or even whether it will support calls for a new harassment offence.
Activists also point out that a high-profile information campaign targeting perpetrators of violence against women has yet to be launched despite hopes it would be up and running before Christmas, a time when domestic violence traditionally rises.
In addition, women’s groups say they don’t know what happened to a £5m ‘women’s safety fund at night’ or an additional £3m to ‘better understand what works to prevent violence against women and girls”.
Questions also surround the StreetSafe app, which allows women to record where they feel unsafe, and which went through a three-month pilot project that ended in early December.
More than 180,000 people responded to a consultation on the strategy, the vast majority after it reopened following Everard’s murder.
A government spokesperson said: “Since the launch of the strategy, we have delivered on many of its commitments, helping to tackle this horrific crime. For the first time ever, there is a national police accountable for violence against women and girls, we implemented the historic Domestic Violence Act, launched the Women’s Night Safety Fund and distributed 25 million additional books for safer streets projects. We also carefully consider the recommendations of the Law Commission regarding a specific offense of public sexual harassment. »
“We know there is still a lot to do, so we continue to work closely with the women’s sector and academics on the national communication campaign, which will be launched shortly.”