Women: ‘The Law Isn’t Working and Change Isn’t Happening Fast Enough’

The UK’s legal system was currently failing its women, according to the findings of a report by the Fawcett Society on sex discrimination law. The report features the conclusions drawn by the group’s Sex Discrimination Law Review Panel made up of a team of legal experts and chaired by Dame Laura Cox, DBE, a retired High Court judge. It was set up to review the UK’s sex discrimination laws in response to ‘Brexit’, and the subsequent concerns of the possible impact on fundamental rights in the UK. It also considered the effectiveness of current laws and which areas were in urgent need of reform.

The findings span across issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace, violence against women and girls and misogyny as a hate crime. It was revealed in the report that half of all women have experienced sexual harassment at work, and almost two thirds of women of all ages (64%) have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places. In sexual offence cases, the requirement to give prior notice when a victim’s sexual history is to be relied on in court is often bypassed, meaning that the victims are often blindsided in the courtroom when it is raised. Despite legal aid being somewhat restored in cases of domestic violence, major barriers still persist for those who are in the ‘legal aid gap’ deemed financially ineligible for legal aid but still unable to pay for legal fees, especially with the number of non-profit legal advice centres reducing dramatically. The lack of accountability for these crimes committed against women, as well as the procedural flaws that prevent women from coming forward and accessing justice, are why the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, Sam Smethers, began the report with the damning: ‘The law isn’t working and change isn’t happening fast enough.’

Read more: Eleanor Sheerin, The Justice Gap,

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