Boris Johnson is ignoring “an epidemic of misogyny”, Labour said, as the party unveiled its own strategy to end violence against women and girls.
A government led by Keir Starmer would introduce whole life sentences for people who rape, abduct and murder strangers. It would also make misogyny a hate crime and jail those who identify sex offence victims.
The policies form part of a detailed plan by Labour’s justice team, which has been published after the government failed to set out new legislation last week.
Boris Johnson has been under pressure to act in the wake of the killing of Sarah Everard, but the Queen’s Speech outlining the PM’s agenda for this parliament, mentioned future “proposals” and no specific Bill.
Everard’s kidnap and murder took place as the 33-year-old was walking home from a friend’s flat in March. It sparked an outpouring of anger and fresh demands for action.
Labour’s plan includes making street harassment a specific offence and tougher sentences for stalking, rape and domestic killings.
The ‘rape clause’ which forces women to disclose they have been raped to claim some benefits for a third child would end.
There would also be “criminal sanctions” for tech executives who fail to remove misogynistic content from platforms.
Labour’s strategy to end violence against women and girls
- Whole life sentences for those who rape, abduct and murder strangers
- A new offence of street sexual harassment
- Tougher sentences for rape, stalking and domestic murder, and review sentencing for all domestic abuse
- Misogyny made a hate crime
- Criminal sanctions for tech executives who fail to remove misogynistic content from platforms
- Prison for those who identify an accuser of a sexual offence
- A survivor’s support package to improve court experiences
- Training for teachers to help identify, respond to and support child victims of domestic abuse
- Funding improved support for Black, Asian, minority ethnic, LGBT+, disabled and migrant women.
- Scrapping the so-called ‘rape clause’ attached to some welfare claims
- Ending the five-week wait for UC, to ensure domestic abuse survivors can access the support they need
The strategy would also include training on intersectionality and the experiences of Black, Asian, minority ethnic, LGBT+, disabled and migrant women targeted for violence and abuse.
Shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, said: “The Conservatives are failing to protect women and girls from violent criminals, which should be one of the first duties of any government.
“With record low conviction rates for perpetrators of sexual violence and an epidemic of misogyny that makes women and girls feel unsafe, this government is treating victims of violence as an afterthought.”
Data from the Crown Prosecution Service last year revealed the number of people prosecuted and convicted for rape fell to the lowest level since records began, despite reports of rape doubling.
Victims’ commissioner Vera Baird said in her annual report that the figures amount to the effective “decriminalisation of rape”.
The PM is yet to publish a strategy to tackle violence against women and girls.
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said it will be published “later this year” and will take into account “hundreds of thousands of responses” from a public survey.
“Violence against women and girls is an abhorrent crime that this government is doing everything in its power to address,” the Tory MP added.
Barcroft Media via Getty Images
“Our landmark domestic abuse act strengthens protections for victims, whilst also tackling perpetrators at the earliest stage to ensure they feel the full force of the law.”
Shadow domestic violence and safeguarding minister, Jess Phillips, however, said: “There have been too many warm words and far too little action from this government.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Protecting women and girls from violence and abuse is a key priority for the government.
“The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill will make sure that serious sexual offenders – including rapists – spend longer behind bars.
“It will also further strengthen the regime for managing those who pose a risk of sexual harm, including by improving preventative tools such as sexual harm prevention and sexual risk orders.”