The suffragettes were certainly prepared to “annoy” those in power
Catherine West MP, Hornsey and Wood Green
- Credit: Polly Hancock
I began the week of March 8 celebrating International Women’s Day and ended it watching a mourning woman being pinned to the ground by police officers at a vigil following the death of Sarah Everard.
It was an appalling, visual reminder, if ever we needed one, that women may have made progress but there is still a long, long way to go.
Whilst it’s, thankfully, rare for someone to be abducted from the street when they’re walking home, it’s all too common for women to be assaulted, raped and murdered. In many instances in the place they’re supposed to feel safest - their own home.
Every three days a woman in the UK is killed by a man and every year around 85,000 women are raped. There won’t be equality until women can live without fear, yet rape convictions are at an all-time low, delays in the Crown Courts are at an all-time high, and justice is simply not being served for thousands of women and girls.
The government’s recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was a missed opportunity to tackle the violence against women and girls that has become endemic in the UK. It didn’t even mention women once in its 296 pages.
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Instead of listening and responding to the voices of the women gathering on Clapham Common, Priory Park and across the country, Boris Johnson’s government has introduced legislation that seeks to criminalise protest and silence dissent.
This divisive bill, which I voted against alongside all my Labour colleagues, could see someone “causing annoyance” jailed for up to 10 years and someone damaging a statue paying a higher price than someone attacking a woman.
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When the suffragettes marched for women’s right to vote, some were prepared to break the law to make their case.
They were certainly prepared to “annoy” those in power and it’s thanks to their efforts that women have the right to vote and I’m sitting in Parliament as an MP today. Protest can be powerful.
Restricting and seeking to criminalise peaceful actions is a very dangerous path to go down and does nothing to address the very real problem of violence against women and girls.
- Catherine West is MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.