The End Violence Against Women Coalition has today (21 November) written to all Westminster political party leaders involved in the cross-party working group on sexual harassment and abuse in politics, and to the Speaker who is also reviewing policy and practice in this area.
In the letter the women’s groups appeal to party leaders and all those with influence and leadership roles in political parties and in Parliament to:
- Ensure all party members and activists, as well as paid workers, are included in new policies and practices on sexual harassment and assaults;
- Ensure there is the option to report harassment and assaults to an independent third party;
- Ensure that complaints in this area are adjudicated independently and not, for example, by those who are likely to have political connections to those complained against;
- Ask everyone in a leadership role, from local to national level, to speak out about the seriousness with which this behaviour is regarded and how it will not be tolerated.
The letter refers to the EVAW Coalition’s review of Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem sexual harassment policies in 2014 which found them to be “hopelessly inadequate”, with poor reporting processes and no guarantees that anyone hwo made a compliant would not be subject to ‘victimisation’.
The letter says:
“The example set by Parliament and political party leaders matters because women in any workplace or social institution should have the right to participate equally and without fear of harassment or assault. It also matters because MPs and those around them determine broader policy on women’s equality, and the criminal justice and public services response to violence against women and girls, and it is not credible that this can be done well if political leaders’ own ‘House’ is not in order.
“What we’ve heard about in politics unsettlingly resembles the Churches’ response to sexual abuse – using victims’ loyalty to the institution as an extra layer of pressure not to report so as not to damage the cherished broader ‘family’. Political leaders have a responsibility to ensure there is no climate where activists, party members, and employees feel unable to voice concerns or report abuse due to party loyalty.”