On the 4th March 2022, women in Lambeth came together to march in memory of Sarah Everard and mourn all the women lost to male violence. I was unable to attend but sent these words of support. More information about Walk Her Home Lambeth.
I’m sorry I can’t be there with you in person today. Sarah was my constituent and I know all of our hearts go out to her family and loved ones as we respect their request for privacy at this time.
Sarah’s kidnapping and killing at the hands of a serving police officer struck fear into the hearts of every woman in the country, but particularly women in our community. I still remember the horror I felt when news of Sarah’s disappearance first broke. So many women wrote to me in the aftermath expressing similar feelings, telling me that they had walked the exact same route that Sarah had just over a year ago and that they no longer feel safe walking in the constituency late at night.
This should have been a turning point in the struggle to eliminate violence against women. No one should feel afraid to walk alone in their area that they live. But for so many women in my constituency, and women across the country, the reality is they still do. And this must change.
This should also have been a turning point for policing. Her killer was able to perpetrate this act because of his structural and institutional power – not only as a man, but as a serving police officer abusing powers granted to him under the Coronavirus Act. And this exact same piece of legislation was used by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner of the time to forcefully disperse, kettle and arrest women holding a peaceful vigil in Clapham Common to remember Sarah and the countless other women lost to male violence.
We will not tackle violence against women until we address the institutional misogyny and culture of impunity among the people entrusted with prosecuting it. Women have to be able to trust the Police if the Police are going to do their job. That’s why we need a comprehensive statutory inquiry into the issue of institutional misogyny within the Met. Cressida Dick’s departure will be meaningless if she is not replaced by someone who recognises the wholesale failings within our police services and is committed to overhauling them.
But we also need to think outside policing if we are going to truly address the misogyny that runs right through our society. Women’s economic insecurity, leaves so many vulnerable. On current progress, the gender pay gap in London won’t close until 2172, some 3 million women are in low-paid work, compared with 1.9 million men and women disproportionately suffer from government decisions to cut Universal Credit.
Education is equally important. In a recent survey, half of school pupils reported receiving no sex education during lockdown, whilst exposure to misogyny online increased. We need to do so much more to ensure that our children are learning the right lessons about care and consent, and that young men and boys in particular are not learning the wrong ones from our wider culture.
And as I also said in Parliament this week, a government that is serious about tackling violence against all women and girls, would reverse cuts to survivor-centred services.
So today as our thoughts turn to Sarah and and all those women have lost their lives to male violence, its crucial that we renew our demand for social, economic and political change. And that we renew our resolve to keep fighting for a world where women can live free from the threat of male violence.