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Luisa Porritt: ‘We’ve had enough – we want the same freedoms men have’

OPINION: Luisa Porritt says women are tired of talk on violence and now need action

19 November, 2021 — By Cllr Luisa Porritt

Lib Dem group leader Luisa Porritt

THE horrific murders of Nicole Hurley, Denise Keane-Simmons, Sabina Nessa, Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman have prompted a nationwide conversation about violence against women and girls.

For women, this isn’t a theoretical discussion: it’s about the constant threats we face and fear we feel in our everyday lives.

At our last full council meeting, I called for our next debate to focus on how to end gender-based violence. Because, like every other woman I know, I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of reading and hearing about women who have been murdered by men in the news.

I’ve had enough of sharing thoughts and prayers to express our collective sadness at these events. I’ve had enough of quantifying the scale of misogyny, from everyday “casual” sexism to femicide.

I’ve had enough of wondering whether it’s safe to walk home the moment it gets dark, then questioning whether a taxi is any safer. I’ve had enough of the “one bad apple” narrative, when how our whole society treats women is rotten.

The changes we want to see are quite simple: we want the same freedoms men have. Talking to my ward colleague Tom Simon recently shone a stark light on the differences between our everyday experiences. Now and then, he’ll go for a run when he can’t sleep late at night.

That would not even be a consideration for me, or any other woman. One friend recently told me she doesn’t like going to most gyms, not because she doesn’t want to exercise – but because she will be leered at. Other than the rain and the cold, it’s the same reason I am put off going for a run outside.

Debate is important, because it helps improve understanding about how endemic and deep-rooted the problem of misogyny is.

But we are also tired of having conversations about a traumatic topic again and again. We want to see action.

At our debate, the new borough commander for Camden and Islington, Andy Carter, will have the chance to outline his strategy to tackle this problem.

I want to hear what he will do, both to address crimes committed against women and girls in Camden, and the poor culture within the Metropolitan Police. And when the women’s groups who are due to attend tell us what needs to be done, I want our council not only to listen and nod but to commit to act on their recommendations.

We need to turn honest and sometimes tough conversations into action plans everywhere.

In every single one of our institutions, including schools – where we need to be educating boys from a young age to respect girls. We can only influence what happens within our own borough’s borders, but we can set an example for change elsewhere.

It’s the only way women will ever have a chance of living as freely as many men do.

Luisa Porritt is leader of Camden Lib Dems

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