All women should be free from gender-based violence
Bristol Women’s Commission has heard from women across the city as part of its 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. It’s heard from Avon and Somerset Police Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens about the work she’s been doing with the police, from Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire about the decades she’s dedicated to working with perpetrators to tackle domestic violence and from myself about SARSAS’s latest campaigns to shine a light on the sexual abuse of older women and those with learning disabilities and autism (more on that below). You can see all these videos on the Commission’s social media channels.
The purpose of Bristol Women’s Commission is to work as a partnership to identify the key issues for women in Bristol. It has established multi-agency task groups from members’ organisations and other organisations and individuals in the city. This includes the Women’s Safety Task Group, which I sit on. We work together to highlight key areas of women’s safety and try to shape the response to gender-based violence in the city.
The 16 Days campaign highlights the disproportionate levels of violence perpetrated against women and girls. Starting with the Elimination of Violence Against women and girls on 25 November, it ends on Human Rights Day on 10 December. It calls for the eradication of all gender-based violence by 2030.
We believe that all women should be free from all forms of gender-based violence and that all survivors deserve support to cope with the often-devastating impacts of abuse. Across the 16 Days of Activism we are highlighting some of the key issues of women’s safety, the issues faced by service users and the support available.
Every three days a woman is killed by a man in the UK. Bristol has one of the highest levels of Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHR) in the country. The Femicide Census released its 10-year report last week, which revealed 30 women had been killed by men in Avon and Somerset between 2009 and 2018. This is terrifying and unacceptable. Our task force is focused on this issue and has proposed a research project to identify the causes and patterns around the high levels of domestic murder and look at how we can work together to change these horrifying statistics.
Another area of our work is campaigning for a ‘nil cap’ and effectively zero Sexual Entertainments Venues (SEVs) in Bristol. We do this on the grounds that they offer unequal and poor employment terms and discriminate against and endanger women. This is a safety issue that relates both to working in SEVs and as members of the public walking nearby who experience harassment from male customers.
Which brings me onto another issue which has been exacerbated by Covid-19, street harassment. More women and girls are experiencing harassment on public transport and the Commission is working with Bristol City Council to gather more data on this so we can understand the extent of the issue and start taking meaningful action.
At SARSAS, for this year’s 16 days of activism we are shining a light on the chilling silence that remains on the issue of the sexual and domestic abuse of older women and women and girls with learning disabilities and autism. We are launching our older women’s tool kit and resources from our learning disability and autism project.
We know that women and girls with learning disabilities and autism can be up to four times more likely to experience sexual violence, at SARSAS we feel this is unacceptable and must end now. This month-through our digital awareness raising campaign, we portray the devastating impact of sexual violence and showcase a programme on this topic to raise awareness to the public.
Everyone can get involved with the 16 Days of Activism, whether it’s through attending some of our webinars or sharing our resources. Or considering whether you can fundraise our volunteer for a local service that is tackling violence against women and girls.