By Shivika Singh | News Editor
The murder of 33 year old, Sarah Everard, on the streets of London on 3rd March 2021 caused an uproar for women’s safety in the United Kingdom. This case gained more severity as a serving Met police officer, Wayne Cauzens, was accused and charged with rape and murder.
Women across the country held vigils, with many relating to Everard’s case and resonating with the struggles of walking through the streets at night. Soon streets across the country were occupied by protesters with women participating in huge numbers to demand justice for Everard and a safer environment for women. While many claim this case gained attention mainly because Everard was a white woman, the heavy backlash and anger received reactions from the government and politicians. Many promises were made but more than six months to this case, women’s safety in the UK is still in question.
According to Counting Dead Women, a project that tracks femicide in the UK, at least 52 women have been killed within the time period from March to July following Sarah Everard’s murder case, under similar circumstances where a man was the principal suspect. At least 83 women are suspected to have been killed by males since the start of the year, says Karen Ingala Smith, who runs the project.
There are hundreds of other resources that point to the concerning state of female safety in the United Kingdom. One of the most recent examples could be the increase in sexual assault cases in Cardiff during the Freshers fortnight. According to BTP data, September is the highest month reporting cases of sexual assaults. Instances like that are more common during events and night outs and have been fairly normalised within the student community. Lack of trust in the police system and tiresome processes involved in reporting such crimes is one of the reasons why victims choose to remain silent. A report released by The Guardian in March 2021 exposed how deeply rooted the issue of female assault is. It was found in the report that 97% of young women aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment, with 80% of women of all ages noting they had been sexually harassed in a public space.
While the promises for women’s safety were still being made following Sarah Everard’s case, another act of femicide reached headlines, with the murder of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa, and the outpouring of anger and frustration was visible once more. Nessa’s murder also reinvigorated discussion in the U.K. about so-called “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” This term refers to the repeated cases involving women of colour which generally do not receive as much attention and does not ring the ‘alarm bells’ for the policing and justice system.
It is often difficult to navigate beyond the question- “What can we do to make women feel safe”. One of the most important steps towards ensuring female safety is to bring about a change in emphasis in the way police deal with gender-based crimes against women and girls.