Sue Perkins: Communities are unsustainable when women are not seen as equals

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Sue Perkins has said that “communities are unsustainable” when they are based on the sense that “women are not equal”.

She added that change needs to start at an educational level and extend to policing and the legal system.

The comedian and presenter stepped in for Mel Giedroyc to host the Women of the Year Awards on Monday after the other half of the comedy duo fell ill at the last minute.

The 67th edition of the awards, hosted in central London, recognised and celebrated 400 women from across the UK who have achieved remarkable things this year.

Perkins, 52, told the PA news agency: “I think so much needs to be done about sexual violence and violence towards women and it needs to start in school, it needs to start with basic ideas of decency, it needs to then evolve into proper sex education, to ideas of consent, to an understanding that we’re all equal, that women aren’t property, that women aren’t goods and chattels to be used and abused.

“It needs to extend to policing, to sentencing, to the legal system, to understanding there are consequences for actions and that communities are unsustainable when they’re predicated on the sense that women are not equal and they are there as placings.

“So we need a holistic approach. I think for those who felt that that was all done and dusted with the #MeToo movement, the awful recent tragedies that have occurred have alerted us to the fact that everything needs to be done. Much more needs to be done.”

Women of the Year Awards 2021
Sue Perkins and Floella Benjamin at the 67th annual Women of the Year event (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The TV presenter spoke of how “extraordinary” it was to be physically surrounded by women and “celebrating the extraordinary genius of ordinary people” while at the ceremony.

She added: “So often we’re used to celebrities being lauded and people ‘of note’, this is almost the opposite of that, this is people who you won’t have heard of, but have done things that have absolutely changed the world, changed the environment of people around them, and it’s wonderful.”

TV host Lorraine Kelly, 61, who is presenting the Lorraine Kindness Award at the ceremony, also recalled having to talk to her daughter about taking greater safety precautions, such as not walking home alone or not leaving her drink unattended, when she returned home from Singapore to the UK.

She told PA: “I hated having to have that conversation with her, and I don’t think I would have had that conversation had she been a young man, and that’s not right, and we have to change our attitudes.

Women of the Year Awards 2021
Lorraine Kelly is presenting the Lorraine Kindness Award at the ceremony (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I mean it shouldn’t be down to women to be worried where we’re walking and to be concerned about all the stuff we’ve got going on in our lives.

“And I don’t think people appreciate what it’s actually like for women now and it has to change and it has to change from the top.

“It can’t just be platitudes, they’re actually going to have to put their money where their mouth is and start changing attitudes and they can start with the police.”

Laura McSorley, Maureen Wilkes and Emma Henderson, who all set up projects to help people during the pandemic, have been shortlisted for the Kindness Award, which was voted by viewers of the morning programme Lorraine.

Kelly added: “A kindness award I think is really important, especially now we’re all looking for little bits of light in the darkness.

“And our three finalists are amazing, they’ve all done incredibly different things, but what they have in common is they’ve got giant hearts and they just want to help people, it’s simple as that, they just want to help people make it a little bit easier for them in these tough times.

“I’m really glad I didn’t have to vote for the winner because as far as I’m concerned they’re all winners, they’re incredible.”

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