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SEXUAL harassment is endemic in our “deeply misogynistic culture” with widespread cases at work or public places, according to a Fawcett Society report published today.
It argued the law needs fundamental reform as it is failing women and girls.
Labour responded to the findings by adding that the justice system struggles to take into account the multiple layers of discrimination that a woman has suffered in one incident.
Of the women who responded to a Fawcett Society survey, half had suffered sexual harassment at work, two thirds had experienced unwanted harassment in public and one in five had been sexually assaulted.
The study also found evidence of complacency and a “blame culture” against women, with two in five men and a third of women believing that a woman wearing a short skirt is partly to blame if she is assaulted while drunk.
The report calls for laws on sexual harassment at work to be strengthened and for “upskirting” — taking photos of a woman or girl under her skirt or dress — to be made an offence.
Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers 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: “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.”
Shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler agreed that the government had a responsibility to help tackle sexual harassment and assault.
She also said that women who are experiencing more than one form of discrimination should not have to decide which one is worse in order to make a case.
Ms Butler said: “One simple first step is to ensure our laws are fit for purpose, ensuring women have access to a fair and just legal system.
“The report exposes a lack of protection for women who experience multiple discrimination. For instance, if you are black and a woman and disabled, you will have to choose which one is worse and present a case on one strand of discrimination.
“It is nonsensical that the law does not recognise the need to bring a case on multiple layers of prejudice.”
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