[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:23 pm on 15th March 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee), Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee) 7:23 pm, 15th March 2021

I very much agree with what James Gray said. The terrible outcome of the police ban on the Clapham common vigil in the wake of the tragic killing of Sarah Everard shows how wrong the Government are to try in this Bill to curb the right to demonstrate, so I hope they will think again about that. The anger of the vigil was about women demanding to be able to walk the streets without fear, and we must listen to those demands and act on them now in the Bill. This demand is not new. Along with women up and down the country, I joined the “Reclaim the Night” protests in the 1970s, but then women’s demands were not listened to by the men in the corridors of power. Now there are women in government, in the Home Office and in the Cabinet. There are women in all parties in Parliament. We are in the corridors of power, so we must use our power to deliver for women.

We all argued it would make a difference if we were here as women in Parliament. Now we had better prove it. We can in this Bill make it a crime to do what men do to women on the street every day and which makes their lives a misery. Kerb crawling is terrifying for a woman or a girl on her own, especially after dark. A man has no right to do it, so let us make it an offence punishable by taking away his driving licence. Following a woman on the street, filming her, trying to get her number and not taking no for an answer are harassment. Why should women and girls have to put up with it? Let us make that a criminal offence. I have tabled two new clauses, which have the backing of Members from all parties, and not just women, but men, too. I hope that the Government will accept them.

Too often when a woman is the victim of a sexual offence, all her previous sexual history is dragged up in court and it ends up as though she is in the dock, not the man. That is not supposed to happen, but it does, so we need to stop it. I have new clauses with cross-party backing to do that, too, which I hope the Government will back. Women do not want us to sympathise; they want action, and that is what we should do.