politics

Exposed: vile tide of misogyny and abuse against female councillors



T

he shocking extent of abuse suffered by female councillors in London can be revealed today in a devastating investigation by the Evening Standard, as 60 per cent of those surveyed said they have been victims of misogyny.

One councillor reported how a member of her constituency had warned her: “I will rape you and your daughter.” Another told us: “There were magazines circulated with my head cut off and rap songs posted through my door about how l should be raped. It has put me off standing for Parliament.” A third said: “I’ve always struggled speaking about this publicly, I didn’t want to put other women off politics.”

Their testimony comes as council leaders are demanding better protection in the wake of a “tide of abuse” against councillors and calling for “a greater willingness to prosecute those who make threats”. It is also despite London Councils, the cross-party representative group for local government, acknowledging the “rising tide” of “particularly vile, misogynistic abuse” female councillors face.

Earlier this month, the Standard surveyed 58 female and 22 male councillors about their experiences of witnessing or being victims of gender-based abuse and found that 45 per cent of male councillors have witnessed abuse towards female colleagues which “wouldn’t happen to them”. While the men said they had experienced some kind of abuse themselves, they said it was usually much less than their female counterparts.

Seventy per cent of the female councillors said they would feel safer if their address was no longer public, branding its current availability “outrageous” and directly contributing to the abuse they face. The home address of councillors is often available online on their register of interests. While there is the chance for councillors to opt-out of having their home address publicly available, one said she “had to fight” to get it removed and another described it as a “hard, difficult process”.

Across boroughs, parties, ages and ethnicities, women councillors have told the Standard of abuse based almost entirely on their gender, including enduring comments made about their “childbearing hips”, being sent hand-written cards stating, “you’ll always have a seat on my face” and being asked for nudes while dealing with casework.

Councillor casework involves working with domestic abuse, debt crises and sheltered housing issues.

The relationships built with constituents is a vital part of being a councillor but women have told the Standard that an increasingly hostile culture of misogyny and abuse has left them feeling vulnerable.

We spoke to four councillors who told us about the gender-based verbal threats, online harassment and physical intimidation they faced.

Peymana Assad



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