Women’s Equality Party shines a light - literally - on London’s harassment hotspots

Helena Wadia
·4-min read
<p>UV messages highlighting violence against women were sprayed on London’s streets</p> (George Torode / WEP)

UV messages highlighting violence against women were sprayed on London’s streets

(George Torode / WEP)

Women across London used street lights as a form of protest on Monday night to highlight the worst areas for sexual harassment.

Led by the the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), they called on leaders to make ending violence and harassment against women and girls a “political priority”.

The demonstration, which included UV messages daubed on the capital’s streets, was in reaction to Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s promise to invest in street lights in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder.

In Lambeth, Hammersmith and Greenwich, street lights turned on and revealed an otherwise invisible message reading: “Two dead a week, and you give us street lights?”

UV messages were sprayed on London’s streetsGeorge Torode / WEP
UV messages were sprayed on London’s streetsGeorge Torode / WEP

The UK government planned to increase funding for street lighting and CCTV as part of a package of measures to help protect women and girls, with Boris Johnson saying in March that the government would more than double funding for neighbourhood safety measures.

However, WEP candidate for London Mayor Mandu Reid says street lighting doesn’t go far enough and does nothing to stop two women being killed every week through domestic abuse.

Reid said she was the only mayoral candidate to show up to recent hustings on violence against women and girls, while other invited Mayoral Candidates sent in pre-recorded messages. She said this showed other parties were not taking the issue seriously enough.

“Given the scale of the problem, simply ‘more streetlights’ is a completely unsatisfactory and insufficient response by senior politicians. Just because the news cycle has moved on, doesn’t mean you get to move on”.

Marble Arch was lit up with the WEP message of ‘Enough is Enough’Esther Lalanne / George Torode / WEP
Marble Arch was lit up with the WEP message of ‘Enough is Enough’Esther Lalanne / George Torode / WEP

As part of the action, the Party also projected artwork onto prominent landmarks in London - Marble Arch and Shoreditch High Street - with the message ‘Enough is Enough’, a slogan first introduced by the party when they invited women to tweet examples of the efforts they go to in order to stay safe.

“When I think about my own experiences in London: I’ve been harassed, I’ve been chased, I’ve been catcalled, I’ve been groped, I’ve had a man expose his penis to me on the London Underground. None of these instances happened at nighttime,” Reid said.

“We’re not anti public realm interventions - adding streetlights is well-intentioned, but they don’t meet the scale of the challenge, and women are being done a disservice”.

Reid says education interventions and public awareness campaigns are needed.

‘Enough is Enough’: Projections on London landmarksEsther Lalanne / George Torode / WEP
‘Enough is Enough’: Projections on London landmarksEsther Lalanne / George Torode / WEP

“There have been relentless government funded public awareness campaigns that have changed attitudes, they’ve changed norms, and they’ve changed behaviours. But you’ve got to invest in that stuff. Over time, it contributes to a shift in attitudes”.

The Party are also calling for the creation of a Deputy Mayor on Violence Against Women and Girls, a commitment to no woman being turned away from safe refuge, five per cent of housing to be ringfenced for women fleeing violence and a specialist police squad to tackle sexual violence in the capital.

Reid has also called for the next Mayor of London to make London a Sanctuary City for migrant women fleeing violence, by overriding the government’s ‘hostile environment policies’ and ensuring they can access support.

‘Not enough’ to add street lightsGeorge Torode / WEP
‘Not enough’ to add street lightsGeorge Torode / WEP

She said politicians were also “squeamish” in addressing “failures in the police force”.

“In the Met Police over the last six years, there have been close to 600 allegations of sexual misconduct against Met Police employees, of which 119 were upheld. Can you imagine another workplace with that degree of sexual misconduct? This is an employer that is meant to protect and serve”.

On the upcoming Mayoral elections, Reid says she is proud of a campaign that had to be run mostly remotely. “I recognise I’m an outside bet to be the next Mayor of London. What’s important for our campaign is to get Women’s Equality Party representation on the London Assembly.

“Every single day, women and girls across our country and in our communities are having to navigate a horrendous reality. We won’t just remember that women and girls exist on International Women’s Day or when the news cycle demands it.

“We will be there, day in and day out, advocating for women and girls on behalf of everyone.”

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