Over 200 Labour women in local government sign open letter on violence

Over 200 Labour women representing council seats in local authorities across London have signed an open letter calling for action to tackle violence against women and girls following the murder of Sarah Everard.

Criticising the police response to attendees at a vigil for Everard on Saturday, the councillors argued that “socially distanced vigils enabling women to grieve and reclaim public spaces should have been supported to take place safely”.

“Instead, a movement for the safety of women in public space resulted in images of police officers physically seizing and arresting women,” they added.

Everard disappeared earlier this month and a Metropolitan Police officer was charged with murder last week. The day after he was charged, the shocking image of an officer kneeling on a woman’s back at the vigil emerged.

The signatories also explained in the letter that, as councillors in local government, they witness on a daily basis “the reality of horrific violence against women and girls, and rising rates of domestic abuse”.

Highlighting low levels of reporting of sexual harassment, they cited recent research showing that while 80% of women of all ages said they have been harassed in public spaces, 96% did not report the incident.

The London councillors wrote that they “regularly hear from some of the residents we represent that they lack faith” in the criminal justice system and that violence and harassment perpetrated against them will be addressed.

They appealed to all Londoners to work with them to end violence against women and girls and to get involved as they start to organised virtual events to hear from women across the city, urging readers to follow #EndVAWGLondon.

Stressing the need for “real action to change how our society deals with rampant misogyny and the exploitation and violence against women”, the councillors made a number of specific demands for change.

At least ten town halls and Alexandra Palace will be lit up with orange lights at 9pm this evening – the colour for the UN campaign to tackle violence against women and girls – to commemorate Everard and other women killed by men.

Below is the full text of the letter.

As London councillors, we are writing to call for action to tackle violence against women and girls in our city.

Firstly and most importantly, our heart goes out to the loved ones of Sarah Everard. Sarah’s death has resonated deeply because so many women know the fear of walking home at night and many have told their personal stories over the last two weeks. We are asking all Londoners to work with us to end violence against women and girls and join us as we begin to organize virtual events across London to hear from women. Follow #EndVAWGLondon to find out more.

As women in local government, we see daily the reality of horrific violence against women and girls, and rising rates of domestic abuse. The progress achieved by decades of the women’s liberation movement has not yet made women safe. Black, Asian and other ethnic minority women, transgender women, lesbian and bisexual women, migrant women, deaf and disabled women and women living in poverty are all particularly vulnerable to experiencing violence and face disproportionate challenges in accessing the necessary support to make them safe.

We believe that well organised socially distanced vigils enabling women to grieve and reclaim public spaces should have been supported to take place safely. That is why we urged police to listen to the strength of feeling in our communities and we were disappointed that the efforts of many local forces were overruled. Instead, a movement for the safety of women in public space resulted in images of police officers physically seizing and arresting women.

A discussion of the role of the police in communities is not new, and we are committed to amplifying the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic Londoners to raise the issue of disproportionate policing and ensure there is accountability around police use of power.

We regularly hear from some of the residents we represent that they lack faith in the system which should protect them to address abuse, violence and harassment will be addressed whether that is homophobic, misogynist, racist or anti-disability hate. A recent UN Women UK survey found that 80% of women of all ages said they had been harassed in public spaces. 96% of women did not report incidents. As community representatives we stand ready to work with the police to address these issues and ensure that women are safe in our city.

The names of Sarah Everard, Wenjing Lin, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry and every woman who has lost her life to male violence are in all of our hearts this week. We ask that the government delivers on the below asks and does so as a matter of urgency. One in three women will be subject to domestic abuse in their lifetime, more than two women a week die because of male violence. Year in, year out there is little change to these heart-breaking statistics but there is a moment here for our government to step up and acknowledge the pervasive nature of violence and sexual violence against women – from street catcalling to the 118 women murdered this year. Deeds, not words, are how we ensure enough is enough so that our society can protect women and children in the future from violence.

The events of the last week have brought to light for many the need for real action to change how our society deals with rampant misogyny and the exploitation and violence against women that runs too deep in our society. We can make change and, in the first instance, we are calling for:

  • Ensuring that the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill does not increase the discretionary powers of the police to prevent protest and significantly restrict civil liberties and the power of citizens and communities to have a voice in how they are governed;
  • Change the law to ensure that misogyny is recorded and prosecuted as a hate crime;
  • Move forward with legal change and make public sexual harassment a crime. Relentless harassment is restricting the freedom of women and girls and making them feel unsafe. The law isn’t fit for purpose and public sexual harassment is going unreported and unpunished. From parks, university campuses and bus stops to our local high streets, women and girls are harassed every day. It is time to make it a crime #CrimeNotCompliment;
  • Immediate action taken to bring rapists to justice with the number of people prosecuted and convicted for rape at the lowest level since records began. This must include fast-tracking rape and serious sexual assault cases through the courts and improved support for survivors;
  • Long-term, stable funding for specialist support for domestic abuse survivors including funding providers led by and for those from minoritised communities including for Black, Asian and other ethnic minority survivors, LGBT+ survivors and survivors who are disabled, deaf or blind. Women’s Aid estimate that effective domestic violence support services would cost £393m per year compared to the cumulative financial impact of domestic and gender-based violence on society of £66bn annually;
  • Following the recommendations of the all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence and abuse, ensure there is a firewall to separate immigration enforcement from services supporting survivors of gender-based violence and abuse and ensure all women including migrant women and women with no recourse to public funds can safely and confidently access domestic violence support services;
  • Reflecting on the findings of the victims commissioner Dame Vera Baird in her report on Rape Survivors and the Criminal Justice System which highlighted that just 14% of survivors of rape believed they would receive justice by reporting the crime to the police. The government end-to-end rape review must tackle head-on the systemic issues preventing women reporting violence, harassment and abuse;
  • Sufficient funding for specialist trauma-informed mental health services for survivors and victims; and
  • Ensuring that the national personal, social, health and economic, and relationships and sex education curricula in schools including actively tackling harmful gender stereotypes (for men and women) and all young people learn about domestic violence, hate crime and their right to report and right to justice.

Cllr Dorothy Akwaboah, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Saima Ashraf, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Toni Bankoli, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Sade Bright, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Princess Bright, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Evelyn Carpenter, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Irma Freeborn, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Edna Fergus, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Jane Jones, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Elizabeth Kangethe, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Donna Lumsden, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Margaret Mullane, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Glenda Paddle, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Emily Rodwell, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Ingrid Robinson, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Maureen Worby, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Sally Hinkley, Bexley
Cllr Nicola Taylor, Bexley
Cllr Mili Patel, Brent
Cllr Shama Tatler, Brent
Cllr Krupa Sheth, Brent
Cllr Margaret McLennon, Brent
Cllr Sandra Kabir, Brent
Cllr Fleur Donnelly-Jackson, Brent
Cllr Georgia Gould, Camden
Cllr Lorna Jane Russell, Camden
Cllr Jenny Headlam-Wells, Camden
Cllr Nadia Shah, Camden
Cllr Angela Mason, Camden
Cllr Jenny Mulholland, Camden
Cllr Karen Jewitt, Croydon
Cllr Alison Butler, Croydon
Cllr Maddie Henson, Croydon
Cllr Hamida Ali, Croydon
Cllr Binda Rai, Ealing
Cllr Joanna Camadoo-Rothwell, Ealing
Cllr Yvonne Johnson, Ealing
Cllr Jaskiran Kaur Chohan, Ealing
Cllr Amarjit Jammu, Ealing
Cllr Jasbir Anand, Ealing
Cllr Deirdre Costigan, Ealing
Cllr Sarah Rooney, Ealing
Cllr Sitarah Anjum, Ealing
Cllr Kamaljit Kaur Nagpal, Ealing
Cllr Claire Stewart, Enfield
Cllr Susan Erbil, Enfield
Cllr Mary Maguire, Enfield
Cllr Yasemin Brett, Enfield
Cllr Saray Karakus, Enfield
Cllr Katherine Chibah, Enfield
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Enfield
Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald, Greenwich
Cllr Miranda Williams, Greenwich
Cllr Polly Billington, Hackney
Cllr Carole Williams, Hackney
Cllr Sophie Cameron, Hackney
Cllr Yvonne Maxwell, Hackney
Cllr Sem Moema, Hackney
Cllr Emma Plouviez, Hackney
Cllr Anna Lynch, Hackney
Cllr Soraya Adjere, Hackney
Cllr Sade Etti, Hackney
Cllr Jessica Webb, Hackney
Cllr Sharon Patrick, Hackney
Cllr Caroline Woodley, Hackney
Cllr Penny Wrout, Hackney
Cllr Katie Hanson, Hackney
Cllr Susan Fajana- Thomas, Hackney
Cllr Clare Potter, Hackney
Cllr Margaret Gordon, Hackney
Cllr Michelle Gregory, Hackney
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Hackney
Cllr Peray Ahmet, Haringey
Cllr Makbule Gunes, Haringey
Cllr Sarah Williams, Haringey
Cllr Zena Brabazon, Haringey
Cllr Ruth Gordon, Haringey
Cllr Dana carlin, Haringey
Cllr Makbule Gunes, Haringey
Cllr Peymana Assad, Harrow
Cllr Sue Anderson, Harrow
Cllr Maxine Henson, Harrow
Cllr Chloe Smith, Harrow
Cllr Honey Jamie, Harrow
Cllr Sarah Butterworth, Harrow
Cllr Pamela Fitzpatrick, Harrow
Cllr Kareema Marikar, Harrow
Cllr Angella Murphy-Strachan, Harrow
Cllr Varsha Parmer, Harrow
Cllr Natasha Proctor, Harrow
Cllr Kiran Ramchandani, Harrow
Cllr Christine Robson, Harrow
Cllr Rekha Shah, Harrow
Cllr Sasikala Suresh, Harrow
Cllr Candice Atterton, Hounslow
Cllr Unsa Chaudri, Hounslow
Cllr Sue Sampson, Hounslow
Cllr Sara Hyde, Islington
Cllr Sue Lukes, Islington
Cllr Flora Williamson, Islington
Cllr Osh Gantly, Islington
Cllr Una O’Halloran, Islington
Cllr Gulcin Ozdemir, Islington
Cllr Roulin Khondoker, Islington
Cllr Vivien Cutler, Islington
Cllr Tricia Clarke, Islington
Cllr Angela Picknell, Islington
Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington
Cllr Kadeema Woodbyrne, Islington
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Islington
Cllr Anjna Khurana, Islington
Cllr Alice Perry, Islington
Cllr Theresa Debono, Islington
Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington
Cllr Sheila Chapman, Islington
Cllr Nanda Manley-Browne, Lambeth
Cllr Claire Holland, Lambeth
Cllr Jessica Leigh, Lambeth
Cllr Emma Nye, Lambeth
Cllr Joanna Reynolds, Lambeth
Cllr Lucy Caldicott, Lambeth
Cllr Christina Valcarcel, Lambeth
Cllr Annie Gallop, Lambeth
Cllr Liz Atkins, Lambeth
Cllr Clair Wilcox, Lambeth
Cllr Jacqui Dyer, Lambeth
Cllr Scarlett O’Hara, Lambeth
Cllr Mary Atkins, Lambeth
Cllr Pauline George, Lambeth
Cllr Anna Birley, Lambeth
Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth
Cllr Jackie Meldrum, Lambeth
Cllr Jen Mosely, Lambeth
Cllr Linda Bray, Lambeth
Cllr Maria Kay, Lambeth
Cllr Rezina Chowdhury, Lambeth
Cllr Marianna Masters, Lambeth
Cllr Joanne Simpson, Lambeth
Cllr Sophie McGeevor, Lewisham
Cllr Brenda Dacres, Lewisham
Cllr Hilary Moore, Lewisham
Cllr Joani Reid, Lewisham
Cllr Amanda De Ryk, Lewisham
Cllr Caroline Kalu, Lewisham
Cllr Silvana Kelleher, Lewisham
Cllr Chris Best, Lewisham
Cllr Kim Powell, Lewisham
Cllr Joan Millbank, Lewisham
Cllr Susan Wise, Lewisham
Cllr Eleanor Stringer, Merton
Cllr Joan Henry, Merton
Cllr Linda Kirby, Merton
Cllr Pauline Cowper, Merton
Cllr Natasha Irons, Merton
Cllr Agatha Akyigyina, Merton
Cllr Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, Merton
Cllr Brenda Fraser, Merton
Cllr Laxmi Attawar, Merton
Cllr Sally Kenny, Merton
Cllr Edith Macauley, Merton
Cllr Marsie Skeete, Merton
Cllr Rebecca Lanning, Merton
Cllr Mumtaz Khan, Newham
Cllr Genevieve kitchen, Newham
Cllr Nilufa Jahan, Newham
Cllr Jane Lofthouse, Newham
Cllr Ann Easter, Newham
Cllr Sarah Ruiz, Newham
Cllr Carleene Lee-Phakoe, Newham
Cllr Joy Laguda, Newham
Cllr Lakmini Shah, Newham
Cllr Ayesha Chowdhury, Newham
Cllr Charlene McLean, Newham
Cllr Pushpa Makwana, Newham
Cllr Rachel Tripp, Newham
Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, Newham
Cllr Sasha Das Gupta, Newham
Cllr Farah Hussain, Redbridge
Cllr Judith Garfield, Redbridge
Cllr Vanisha Solanki, Redbridge
Cllr Namreen Chaudhry, Redbridge
Cllr Elaine Norman, Redbridge
Cllr Helen Coomb, Redbridge
Cllr Rosa Gomez, Redbridge
Cllr Leanne Werner, Southwark
Cllr Alice Macdonald, Southwark
Cllr Kath Whittam, Southwark
Cllr Rebecca Lury, Southwark
Cllr Maggie Browning, Southwark
Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Southwark
Cllr Radha Burgess, Southwark
Cllr Victoria Mills, Southwark
Cllr Helen Dennis, Southwark
Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Southwark
Cllr Cleo Soanes, Southwark
Cllr Victoria Olisa, Southwark
Cllr Sabina Akhtar, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Sufia Alam, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Amina Ali, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Asma Begum, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Rachel Blake, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Asma Islam, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Denise Jones, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Eve McQuillan, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Victoria Obaze, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Kyrsten Perry, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Leema Qureshi, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Zenith Rahman, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Candida Ronald, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Gabriela Salva Macallan, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Bex White, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Val Whitehead, Tower Hamlets
Cllr Judi Gasser, Wandsworth
Cllr Clare Fraser, Wandsworth
Cllr Rita Begum, Westminster
Cllr Nafsika Butler-Thalassis, Westminster
Cllr Aicha Less, Westminster