Abuse and harassment against women endemic, says report

Violence against women "endemic".
Violence against women "endemic".
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Violence against women and girls is endemic, with widespread cases of harassment at work or public places, according to a new report.

The Fawcett Society claimed the legal system was failing women, and needed fundamental reform.

Research for the campaign group found that half of women had suffered sexual harassment at work, two thirds have experienced unwanted harassment in public places and one in five had been victims of sexual assault.

The study also found evidence of complacency and a “blame culture” against women, with two out of five men and a third of women believing a woman is partly to blame if she is assaulted after getting drunk, wearing a short skirt.

The report calls for laws on sexual harassment at work to be strengthened and making “up-skirting” an offence.

Employers should also be given more responsibility to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace, said the Fawcett Society.

Sam Smethers, the group’s chief executive, said: “What we see is a deeply misogynistic culture where harassment and abuse are endemic and normalised coupled with a legal system that lets women down because in many cases it doesn’t provide access to justice.”Dame Laura Cox, who chaired a panel set up by the Fawcett Society, added: “The evidence we received, of increasing levels of violence, abuse and harassment against women, was deeply disturbing.

“A lack of access to justice for such women has wide-ranging implications not only for the women themselves, but also for society as a whole and for public confidence in our justice system.”

The report added that progress on closing the gender pay gap had stalled, 54,000 pregnant women were pressured to leave their job early, with just 1% of cases going to a tribunal, while the number of legal centres had halved in 10 years.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Everyone is entitled to a workplace that is free from harassment and discrimination and until we achieve that goal we will see inequality in pay and opportunity, and a waste of some of the brightest talent owned by half the human race.”

Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “Weneed a revolution in the workplace to ensure fairness for women, men and their families.”

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