To say 2014 was not a good year for gender equality in the UK is an understatement. A report for the United Nations Security Council by Rashida Manjoo said the UK was the “most in your face sexist country” with a “boys club sexist culture”. That of course is a matter of opinion. What is a fact is that last year the UK slipped to 26th place in the World Gender Equality League – below the likes of Rwanda and Burundi! – a big fall from 9th in the first table back in 2006.Also last year I read one of the most horrific things I’ve ever read. It was in a Daily Telegraph interview with Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates and was a quote from an unnamed girl who said :
I am scared of going to university when I am older. Not because of exam stress but because of the horror stories of girls that have been subjected to assault for ‘banter’. I am scared. I am actually scared of being a female (my emphasis).
To my mind any man reading that should be ashamed. I know I am. And even worse her fears are justified. A survey in the Daily Telegraph (January 14th 2015) said “A third of female students in Britain have endured a sexual assault or unwanted advance at university”. And it gets worse. Another survey last year said that “A third of girls are groped or suffer some form of sexual assault while still at school”. What is wrong with this country?
There are two problems here. The first is the UK’s awful rape conviction rate. The Daily Telegraph (January 29th 2015) said that 85,000 women are victims of rape here every year. Of those rapes just 15,670 (18.4 per cent) were even reported to the police. Of that number 2,910 (18.6 per cent) got to court and of those just 1,070 got convictions. That is 36.8 per cent of those that went to court, 6.8 per cent of those reported to the police and just 1.3 per cent of all rapes. The Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales Alison Saunders sated that “men accused of rape will need to convince police that the woman consented”. That is all very well but the problem is not just with the police but with the UK public. A lot of people in the UK amazingly still think that if a woman wore a short skirt or dress that “she was asking for it”. Nonsense. Women should be able to wear what they want without it being seen as an open invitation to rape. Or if a women was drunk she is in some way to blame. Again tripe. Or if a woman doesn’t resist her attacker it means she was happy to accept sex. But some women would just freeze with fear when attacked. Some might take the pragmatic view if they try to defend themselves they’ll get killed. It didn’t mean they agreed to be raped!
But why do the public think like that? To my mind they are brainwashed by our awful media. A lot of the right wing press in the UK is full of sexist sewage. The Sun and the Star still have naked women for goodness sake. And in an awful editorial (January 30th 2015) the Daily Telegraph stated “A more honest approach (to rape) would be to consider once again whether a lesser offence of date rape is needed”. Nonsense. Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter whether its done by a stranger or someone the woman knows (which is the case in 90 per cent of rape cases). Just because a woman agrees to go on a date and is then raped it does NOT make it less serious than any other kind of rape. Good god. No wonder people think like that when the press is pumping such sexist propaganda to them on a daily basis.
So how to cut down the number of rapes/sexual assaults? We must improve the UK’s awful rape conviction rate. One way of doing that is to get rid of juries. It is clear that if a woman wore a short skirt/was drunk/didn’t resist her attacker a big group of the public(by no means all male) won’t have sympathy for her. Rape victims should not be at the mercy of the prejudices of the public. Rape trials should be heard before judges and magistrates who know the law and are would not be prejudiced against victims. Secondly the press have to be dealt with. The appeasement of Rupert Murdoch must stop. Page 3* should be banned and the likes of the Daily Mail should be stopped from publishing sexist sewage.
Long term however the key is to quote Tony Blair “Education, education, education”. We men have to learn that women aren’t playthings that we can treat whatever way we like. We have to understand they are human beings with a right to go through their lives without being subjected to rape/sexual abuse. Boys have to be taught at school that they should treat girls the way they want to be treated. if we teach them young that women aren’t our sexual playthings they hopefully will carry that on into adulthood. And then in the future maybe we can look forward to a UK where the rape conviction rate is zero. Not because of the prejudices of the police or the public. The rape conviction rate will be zero because men will have learned to respect women and there will be no rapes committed. It might seem like a dream. But there is no reason why we shouldn’t aim for a world where that happens.
*Page 3 is the page of the UK’s gutter press that has naked women on it.