Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls

Workers Party representative Lily Kerr has told an all party workshop at Stormont that legislating against on-line abuse and holding social media companies to account is important, but that, on its own, it will not eradicate the problem of threats and attacks on women and girls.

“Misogyny is a societal problem and not confined to council chambers and seats of government”, Lily said .

“Of course we must condemn and counter abuse and attacks on public representatives but not at the expense of the thousands of women in society who are also daily subjected to abuse, discrimination, marginalisation, physical, financial and sexual abuse and murder”, she said.

“For many that could be an uncomfortable conversation but if we are serious about the abuse of women then it is one we need to have”, Lily added.

“The ruthlessness of zero hours contracts, the exploitative nature of much part time employment, the so called ‘glass ceiling’ and the continued marginalisation of women and girls and their exclusion from many aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life – is just as threatening, and should be met with the same outrage resolve, as online abuse and threats”, Lily added.

The #Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls workshop was organised by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in recognition of the growing levels of online abuse directed at female politicians and ahead of next May’s Local Government Elections .

Picture: Workers Party representatives Joanne Lowry (left) and Lily Kerr with Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton and Inspector Jane Brown.

Women: the hidden victims of hate crime

The extent and consequences of misogyny – the contempt and hatred of women – has been brought into sharp focus by the recent murders in Plymouth.

Despite re-assuring statements that events like this are rare, the reality is that hate crime, its levels, intensity and effects, is a brutally regular experience for many people here.  

For some reason, the myth persists that hate crime is not a serious issue in Northern Ireland. The reality is significantly different.

Facts & figures

Even a cursory examination of the statistics reveals the extent of the problems. Since 2007 there have been more the 17,000 sectarian incidents reported to the police. The actual figure, as with all hate crime, will be much higher.

In the same period, more than 1,000 race motivated incidents were recorded for seven of those years, and at least 3,000 reports of homophobic incidents were logged. Not a week has passed since 2007 withoutand multiple incidents of religious, disability or transphobic hate incidents being reported.

However, as the Plymouth murders have demonstrated, women are as much, if not more so, the subject of a persistent and deadly hate crime regime.

It is thought that, at some stage of their lives, 30% of women in Northern Ireland are subjected to psychological abuse in a relationship and that one woman in every six suffers violence at the hands of their partner.

The rates of femicide in Northern Ireland in 2017 were the highest in the whole of Europe, per head of population. In the past year alone, domestic violence has claimed the lives of nine women.

While there is legislation in place to address incidents of hate crime and, albeit limited, domestic violence legislation in force there is no overarching strategy to address and overcome the protection of women and young girls from violence.

Despite a private members bill in the Assembly, and promises from the Department of Justice, we remain the only part of these islands that does not have such a strategy.

Not only does that legislation need to be progressed as a matter of urgency but it also needs to be shaped with significant input from women and girls to ensure that it provides the appropriate direction and meets their needs.

However, legislation alone, vital as it is, will not be enough to overcome a culture which sees women and girls as objects and commodities and tolerates misogyny and prejudicial gender-based attitudes.

Nor will it be overcome for as long as we are subject to a capitalist economic and social system which has an intrinsic self interest in sustaining and perpetuating gender discrimination in its pursuit of profits, lower wages and working-class division.

Only a society grounded in socialist principles and values can secure the role of women, ensure their full participation and recognise their contribution. That is where we need to be.