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Sadiq Khan has admitted he’s ‘worried’ about a culture of victim-blaming when it comes to women’s safety.
Speaking exclusively to Tyla in a year that has seen violence against women thrust into the national conversation, the London Mayor said that he believes tackling male violence should be the first step in addressing these issues.
The horrific deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa this year, both in south London, left many women feeling angry, scared, and failed by a system that all too often seems to focus on the victims’ behaviour rather than that of their attackers.
When asked what is being done to help women feel safer on the streets, Sadiq, a father of two daughters, said: “I think we’ve got a step back. Often what we do is address the behaviour of women and girls rather than the men.
“The first thing we’ve got to do is tackle the perpetrators. We’ve got to do far more to get violent men off the streets; we’ve got to do far more to deter men from acts of violence.”
Post-lockdown, reports of sexual harassment on public transport were up by a shocking 63 per cent over the summer according to the British Transport Police.
And while Transport for London has made taken steps to protect passengers – such as a poster campaign and dedicated police offers stationed across the network – campaigners argue that the recent spike in cases is symptomatic of a wider and deep-rooted culture of misogyny.
With a recent YouGov poll showing two thirds of women feel less safe walking home at night, many are now taking matters into their own hands by taking self-defence classes, carrying pepper spray in their handbags and purchasing personal alarms.
Indeed, Kensington & Chelsea council recently caused controversy with their decision to equip 1,000 local women with so-called rape alarms.
What message does this send to women who already feel afraid, I ask? Sadiq argues that while we should “be supportive of women who want support”, they should not be expected to change their own behaviour.
“In the world’s greatest city, in 2021, it can’t be right that women are having to buy pepper spray because they’re worried about being attacked by a bloke,” he says.
“What I don’t want is a situation where men are lecturing women on how they should behave, what they should be carrying around, and then criticising them if they’re not doing A, B or C.
“My concern with doing that is somebody who hasn’t got a rape alarm and blame could be apportioned, which can’t be right.
“I do worry about the inference being given to women that unless I do this, I’m somehow going to be blamed, but that’s not the case. It’s the behaviour of men we’ve got to tackle.”
Sadiq was speaking after a speech highlighting the link between violence to poverty and unemployment. For more information, click here
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