A piece in today’s Times, needless to say there’s no mention of the long-established fact that inter-personal violence (IPV) isn’t a gendered issue:
Boys should be taught how to respect women and girls in the streets as part of their sex and relationship education at school, the policing minister has said.
Kit Malthouse made the suggestion in response to public clamour for action after Sarah Everard’s murder. He said that all adults had a duty to “pay attention to the way we bring up our kids” by being role models and helping boys to understand relationships with women.
However, in an interview with The Times, Malthouse also suggested that teachers could play a role in changing attitudes towards the way in which women are treated in public, including the subject as part of relationships and sex education (RSE).
Asked whether more must be done to change boys’ attitudes, Malthouse said: “I think we always have to pay attention to the way we bring up our kids. This has been a constant theme throughout my life, about what role models, what kids understand about relationships, all those kinds of things are important and obviously governments in the past have introduced PSHE [personal, social, health and economic] education.
“It may be that we need to think about what PSHE includes about, for example, the way people are treated in the street and the way women and girls are contemplated in the public realm.”
A Department for Education source said that teachers have the flexibility to teach pupils about abuses such as wolf whistling, saying: “We would certainly encourage teachers to take the curriculum and expand and reflect on events and movements in society . . . That’s why the curriculum is built like that so that people do have the flexibility.”
Malthouse’s comments echoed those of Theresa May, who called on Monday for more to be done in schools. She said: “If we are going to eradicate violence against women and girls, we need a change of attitudes and that is about dealing with perpetrators, changing their behaviour, but also teaching young men and boys about respect for women and about what is or is not acceptable in a relationship.”
Yesterday ministers were pressed again to introduce new laws that would make public sexual harassment and misogyny specific crimes that would force police to tackle perpetrators.
Nimco Ali, a government adviser on violence against women and girls, told Good Morning Britain on ITV: “I would want to see things like sexual harassment on the street being banned. I want to see better education. And I really want to understand that we have a social contract that has been broken.
“Women and men in this country do not trust each other, and that is heartbreaking. But ultimately I also know that violence against women and girls is not inevitable, it can be prevented.”
Katy Bourne, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Sussex, said that misogyny should be a hate crime. “I’d like to go further,” she added. “I think we should have public place harassment as a crime.”
Malthouse said the government would consider calls to make misogyny a hate crime and public harassment an offence as part of its strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, due to be published this year.
Since the Home Office opened a call for evidence on Friday, over 90,000 responses have been received. “I’ve read people’s accounts of their experience on the street and it’s pretty harrowing stuff,” Malthouse said. “Understanding people’s lived experience for someone like me is very important.”
Yesterday MPs criticised the immediate steps announced by the government to improve women’s safety, including £45 million for street lighting and CCTV, and undercover police officers in and around nightclubs.
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, said the plan exposed a lack of understanding. She told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “Sarah Everard was not on a night out . . . Ask a woman who has gone for a run in broad daylight in their parks about their experiences and you will realise some of the scale of the challenge.”
Jess Phillips, shadow domestic violence minister, told Times Radio: “It’s going to have to have a huge amount of undercover police officers in skinny jeans in bars, who are then going to inform. Maybe I just don’t understand it . . . They’re going to inform uniformed officers. Why can’t women inform uniformed officers and be believed?”
Separately, David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said that the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which cleared its first parliamentary hurdle yesterday, was a missed opportunity.
He told Sky News: “There is a lot to do — there are women being stalked on our streets, we should be making misogyny a hate crime and we should absolutely be ensuring that if you abduct, rape and murder a woman, the starting point is life imprisonment. [J4MB emphasis. The ending point should be…?]
“Labour has been absolutely clear that this was an opportunity to get serious about these measures, some of which we had been calling for in the Domestic Violence Bill, and I’m afraid the government has failed to act.
“Instead, we have a bill that is largely around protecting statues and giving people 10 years for criminal damage for statues when it could be about these very serious issues.”
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