(Office of Yvette Cooper MP, Rex)
In the last few years, despite reported cases of rape and domestic violence rising, prosecutions and improvements to women’s safety have been ‘going backwards’ says the Shadow Home Secretary, who hosts a conference on how the government can take action on women’s security and equality in public spaces, at home, and in the media.
“Two women a week are still killed by a partner or an ex. One in five 999 calls are domestic violence related.” tells Yvette Cooper, who is leading the conference ‘Every Woman Safe, Everywhere’ this week, which will explore the ways we, and our government can address these shocking statistics.
“If you had that level of violence in town centres or football matches, there would be a national task force, a national outcry, there would be action taken. But because it takes place behind the net curtains, because this is violence against women, too little is being done,” Cooper explains. “People are turning their backs on this, government are turning their backs on this, and it’s got to be taken more seriously, it’s got to be a national priority. We’ve got to have action on the crimes that matter most to half the population.”
The event will look at four key areas which require a big shake up – the support available to female victims of violence; response of the police and criminal justice system to domestic violence, rape, assault, FGM and forced marriage; women's safety in public spaces; and the ways in which our society, our media and our politics need to change in order to deliver greater gender equality.
It’s a lot to get through, but with a panel boasting Every Day Sexism’s Laura Bates, women’s rights advocate Caroline Criado Perez and FGM campaigner Leyla Hussein, the proceedings will open up conversation on the ways in which change can be exacted – from building compulsory Sex and Relationship Education into school curriculums, a new commissioner to look at prevention of abuse in teenage relationships, and providing more support and refuge spaces for victims of abuse and even simple switches such as keeping street lights on for longer to make women feel safe.
Of course, FGM is also high on the agenda, with Cooper admitting that there’s still a long way to go. “The work that some of the campaigners have done on FGM has really raised the profile of the crime, but we’ve not had any successful prosecutions yet. It’s just unacceptable.”
The event will be followed up by a consultation over the summer where surveys will go out across the country to establish the priorities. “What we want to do is draw up an unprecedented piece of legislation so we have a new law in place to be part of the Labour party manifesto, and be in the first Queen’s speech for a Labour government,” says Cooper. “Women’s lives are at risk if they don’t get support, when they’re being abused. Something needs to be done.”
Every Woman Safe, Everywhere is held today in London at UNISON HQ Conference Centre, Euston.