Thank you for contacting me about the sexual harassment of women and girls in public.
I agree that sexual harassment of women and girls, including in public places, is totally unacceptable. No one should be forced to change the way they live to avoid harassment and abuse.
I am also acutely aware of the issues surrounding violence against women and girls through my work as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.
I am glad that action is already being taken. You may be aware of the wide-ranging Law Commission review into hate crime. Work on this is well underway and the review will identify any gaps within the current legislation and determine whether sex or gender should be added to hate crime law. The Law Commission's consultation closed on 24 December 2020 and I am glad those with an interest, including perhaps yourself, had the opportunity to share their views. The Government will of course consider the review's recommendations when they are complete.
I am sure you will agree with the importance of allowing the Law Commission to complete its work in this area. However, it is welcome that the Government has announced that on an experimental basis, police forces will be asked to identify and record any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking and harassment, as well as sexual offences where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by a hostility based on their sex. I understand that Ministers will shortly begin the consultation with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and forces on this with a view to commencing the experimental collection of data from this autumn.
While this is not making misogyny a hate crime, it can inform longer-term decisions once the Government has considered the recommendations made by the Law Commission.
I also welcome the new Voyeurism (Offences) Act, which criminalises the reprehensible behaviour of upskirting. There can now be no doubt that this activity is criminal and will not be tolerated. For the most serious offences, this law will ensure that the offender is also placed on the sex offenders register.
There is of course always more work to do and it is therefore good news that the Home Secretary has appointed Nimco Ali as an Independent Adviser on Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls. Nimco Ali will advise the Home Secretary and other ministers on the government’s new Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. It is welcome that Ministers will be bringing forward the new strategy this year.
You may welcome the fact that the Government reopened a call for evidence to further collect views from those with lived experience of, or views on, crimes considered as violence against women and girls. The survey has now closed and I understand that 162,513 responses were contributed following Sarah's death. The Government has said that responses will inform the new VAWG strategy.
You will be pleased to learn that relationships education is now compulsory for all primary pupils and relationships and sex education compulsory for all secondary school pupils. This ensures that concepts such as healthy relationships, consent and boundaries are taught to children.
There is more to do and I will be paying close attention to the important work which is underway.