PMQs was dominated by women’s rights... but it took 21 minutes before a woman MP was heard

Conrad Duncan@theconradduncan
Wednesday 17 March 2021 17:18
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More than 20 minutes passed before a female MP could get a word in during today’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions, despite the issue of violence against women dominating the news agenda over the past two weeks.

Boris Johnson was grilled by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer about the Government’s record on sentences for rape and serious sexual violence in light of the killing of Sarah Everard.

Sir Keir told the PM that the 33-year-old’s death needed to be “a watershed moment to change how we as a society treat women and girls,” as he urged him to support legislation offering more rights to victims of sexual violence.

The Prime Minister agreed with the importance of the issue, arguing that politicians needed to work together for “cultural and social change”.

However, as BBC Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall noted, the session rolled on for 21 minutes before a woman’s voice was heard.

The voice was that of Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only MP, who raised concerns about protections for the right to peaceful protest in the UK.

Her comments followed widespread condemnation of the Metropolitan Police’s handling of a vigil at Clapham Common in London over the weekend - at which women were forcibly arrested by officers who moved to break up the crowd.

Although the Met argued that they broke up the gathering due to coronavirus restrictions, the police force has faced criticism from senior MPs across the political spectrum.

Minutes after Lucas’ comments, Labour’s Charlotte Nichols also questioned the PM on the low rate of rape convictions in the UK.

She told the Commons: “I have parliamentary privilege, I can name the men who have hurt me, but millions of women in this country don’t even have that.

“Stuck between a criminal system where only 1.4 per cent of reported offences result in charges being laid and where too many survivors who speak out are pursued through the civil courts by abusers to silence them. Can the Prime Minister advise how women are meant to get justice?”

Johnson responded by acknowledging that more needs to be done to tackle “the fundamental issue of casual everyday sexism” towards women.

Goodall also noted that of the 21 MPs who spoke during the full PMQs session, 15 were men compared to just six women – a figure which he acknowledged was partly down to the ratio of male/female MPs (66 per cent male to 34 per cent female) in Parliament.

It also doesn’t help that the leaders of the two largest parties, the Commons Speaker and the Westminster leader of the third-largest party (the SNP’s Ian Blackford) are all male...

More: The killing of Sarah Everard sparks a larger conversation surrounding violence against women

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