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Independent support needed in Westminster

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EVAW Coalition, letter, Westminster, party leaders, sexual harassment and abuse‘Speak out about the seriousness with which this behaviour is regarded and how it will not be tolerated’.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has written to the leaders of the political parties in Westminster 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 have asked the party leaders and all those with influence and leadership roles in political parties and in Parliament to:

Ensure that all party members and activists, as well as paid workers, are included in any 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; and

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 LibDem sexual harassment policies in 2014 which found them to be “hopelessly inadequate”, with poor reporting processes and no guarantees that anyone who made a compliant would not be subject to ‘victimisation’.

The letter also says that “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.”

To read the full letter, click here.

Responses to the letter will be published on the EVAW Coalition’s website.

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