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Women’s safety charter

It’s not ok to touch someone’s boob; to whisper a sexually explicit comment in someone’s ear; or to lick someone’s face. You may already know that; but evidently some pub and club-goers in south London do not, for Southwark Council felt that such harassment – generally by men against women, and LGBT minorities – is so normalised that a woman’s safety charter was called for. The WAVE (Welfare and Vulnerability Engagement) event in Southwark yesterday by the SouthwarkSafe business crime reduction partnership (BCRP) and Met Police spelt out the newly-launched women’s safety charter, and how and why it matters especially for door and venue security staff.

Unchallenged

Harassment of women in bars and clubs goes unchallenged and is not felt to be worth confronting. Hence the charter, that asks bar staff to act in a responsive and supportive manner, to discourage harassment and encourage reporting (not the same things). It may require training of front of house staff; and, in practice, to act on every report of harassment and to work to ensure that women leave venues safely. As with other crime prevention campaigns, publicity counts, spreading the word; hence Southwark asks that venues signed up put up posters explaining the charter.

Touching someone sexually, slapping someone’s bum, is not ok; it’s not a joke, nor should it be, Southwark argue, ‘part of the job’ if someone is so harassed at their place of work. The charter goes into detail about what to do for someone who reports an incident; whether to call 101 or 999, depending on how urgent it is; taking someone to a private area is suggested generally.

The cost of signing up? There’s isn’t one as Southwark provide posters; the only cost is time of staff to watch a short online video, to explain the charter. Pub and club managers may reply that such crime and anti-social behaviour reduction is fine; but if my venue gets lots of incidents reported to the police, will that count against the pub, when it’s time for magistrates to renew the alcohol licence? It won’t affect the licence, Southwark says. The council argues that the principles in the charter are realistic and practical to implement, and it hopes that some or most of the charter are common practice in a venue already. The more calls to the authorities about such sexual misbehaviour, Southwark says, the better the intelligence picture. The more such behaviour is challenged, the more likely it’ll be prevented. To put it more crudely, if someone doesn’t report a bum grab, grabbing of bums becomes more ok.

In brief

Advice for door and bar staff when told of harassment:
– believe them;
– listen;
– never assume;
– don’t be afraid to call the non-emergency number 101, or 999.

Visit www.goodnightoutcampaign.org and the ‘community safety’ part of the Southwark Council website www.southwark.gov.uk.

Separately, a recent summit at City Hall, Reclaim the Night, brought together representatives from policing, transport, charities and the night-time economy about a Women’s Night Safety Charter, by the Mayor of London. Live Nation UK, Ministry of Sound, UK Music, Drinkaware, the O2, Portman Group, Lambeth Council, the Met and Transport for London have signed that, London-wide, charter. Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, said: “London is one of the safest cities in the world but we know that more can be done to improve safety for women at night. We’re helping venues and councils to take some simple, but important, steps to help women know that nowhere is off limits to them.”

Picture by Mark Rowe; outside Ministry of Sound nightclub, Gaunt Street, south London, a signatory to Southwark’s charter. For others signed up, that include venues at The Shard, see the Southwark website.


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