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Voices: From Andrew Tate to revenge porn, women are facing new threats – and we’re sick of it

Misogyny now comes in new forms, spearheaded by cult figureheads like Andrew Tate (TalkTV)
Misogyny now comes in new forms, spearheaded by cult figureheads like Andrew Tate (TalkTV)

Twenty years ago this week, the last Labour government introduced the Sexual Offences Act – a landmark law which led to major changes in the way the police and courts dealt with violence against women and girls.

It was an important step – by 2010, more cases were reaching and being convicted in court, and the number of victims of domestic abuse and sexual offences had fallen by one-third. However, since then progress has been far too slow, and in some areas things have gone backwards.

Violence and abuse against women remain shamefully and persistently high, and too many women are badly let down by the criminal justice system. Enough is enough. We cannot let our daughters face the same threats that our grandmothers did. That’s why tackling violence against women and girls will be a mission for the next Labour government.

The turn of the millennium marked a change in the way we dealt with these crimes, for the first time creating a proper legal definition of consent, and introducing new powers to crack down on dangerous perpetrators and protect women and children from harm – so that women could live in freedom from fear. That’s what can be achieved when a government prioritises women’s safety and sets its mind to delivering change.

From opposition over the last 13 years, we have continued to campaign for change – it was Labour MPs who put forward the new stalking law, plans for a domestic abuse commissioner role, and extending time limits for prosecuting domestic abuse. But overall, momentum in tackling this stain on our society has been lost, and the Conservative government has failed to drive change.

Women are still being badly failed by a woeful policing and criminal justice response to these devastating crimes. The proportion of rapes reaching court has plummeted, and for the tiny number that do, survivors are waiting more than 400 days just to see a perpetrator charged, let alone brought to justice. Little wonder that record numbers of victims now give up and drop out.

At the same time, women are facing new threats that didn’t exist 20 years ago – from rampant online misogyny spearheaded by cult figureheads like Andrew Tate, to cyber-stalking, revenge porn and image-based abuse that are tearing young women’s lives apart. We’re sick and tired of women who face abuse and violence being failed, generation after generation – and we simply cannot stand for it anymore.

At the Labour conference last month we were joined by Nour Norris. Her niece, Raneem, faced abuse, stalking and threats to kill from her ex-partner for many months. Repeatedly, she asked the police for help, but nothing was done. She even went to court herself to get a non-molestation order which should have kept her safe, but it didn’t. On the night Raneem and her mother Khaola were murdered, they called 999 four times, but no one came. We are determined that no woman should ever be ignored and abandoned in this harrowing way again.

That’s why the next Labour government will once again put tackling violence against women and girls at the heart of its agenda. We’ll put rape investigation units in every police force and domestic abuse experts in every 999 control room – to ensure that the warning signs are spotted at the earliest opportunity and robust protection is put in place to prevent harm. We’ll require police forces to use the tactics and tools normally reserved for organised crime and terrorist organisations, to identify and go after the most dangerous repeat abusers and rapists and get them off our streets.

And we’ll ensure that the legal system properly serves women. Labour will introduce specialist rape courts to drive down the shameful backlog that finds women waiting up to six years to go to trial, and we will fund legal advocates to ensure rape victims know their rights and to stop them from being treated like criminals themselves through unnecessary requests for personal records.

These changes would not only fundamentally transform the experience of victims of rape throughout legal proceedings – they will also ensure that every victim gets the best possible chance at justice.

Keir Starmer has spent his career locking up criminals and standing up for victims. We are proud that he has made halving incidents of violence against women and girls one of his missions in government if Labour is elected next year. It is one that, as home secretary and justice secretary, we would work tirelessly to deliver.

All crime devastates lives, but pervasive violence against women and girls corrodes the very fabric of our society. It’s time for it to change: to break new ground and bring about a sea change in women’s safety once again.

Yvette Cooper is the shadow home secretary and Shabana Mahmood is the shadow justice secretary and shadow lord chancellor. Saturday 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls