13 March 2021
On Monday 8 March, we commemorated the achievements, courage and determination of women across the world for International Women’s Day.
However, for many of us, it was not International Women’s Day that started the discussions we have been having on gender equality in recent days. For many, it has been the devastating news of the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard. My thoughts are with her family and friends.
This comes at the same time as UN Women UK reported that 97% of women aged 18-24 surveyed said they had been sexually harassed, and 80% of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.
These statistics are deeply saddening but, for most women, unsurprising.
We change our routes home, cross the road and change our clothes to avoid being harassed, hold our keys in our hand or call someone if we are going out at night. We live in fear and frankly in 2021 it’s appalling that that’s the case.
The burden must be taken off our shoulders. It is unacceptable that it is ‘normal’ for women to be forced to take such actions to solely protect their own personal security.
This week, during the International Women’s Day debate in the Commons, we also heard the names of all 116 women who died in the UK where a man has been convicted or charged as the primary perpetrator in the case within a year. Almost 1 woman is dying every 3 days at the hands of men.
We should also be taking the necessary steps to ensure that women feel safe: calling for misogyny to be considered a hate crime; breaking down the barriers for reporting; raising public awareness; providing and creating safe spaces for women; and the list goes on. As well as, importantly educating men on these experiences, ensuring there is greater understanding, promoting discussions between men, and ending this behaviour.
The Government has responsibility too, and must do more. They are yet to ratify and bring into force the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. That needs to change.
As we reflect on International Women’s Day, the incredible achievements and contributions of women throughout our society should not go unacknowledged. So, I want to express my deep appreciation for the success, sacrifice, and resilience that women have shown during this particularly difficult year. Thank you.
Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon