The former police ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan has warned against demonising all men as “evildoers”, after UK-wide protests following the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard.
Writing in her column for The Irish Catholic newspaper, Baroness O’Loan said society needed to “think again” around attitudes to violence and the “damaging narrative” forming towards men in the debate.
The kidnapping and murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard as she was walking home near Clapham Common in London on March 3, sparked nationwide protests and debate around women’s safety.
A member of the Met Police has been charged in relation to her kidnap and murder.
A protest to “reclaim the streets”, organised by ROSA NI – the Socialist Feminist Movement - took place in Belfast on Tuesday.
During the event, crowds chanted for an end to gender violence, with one speaker adding that such violence was a “daily reality” for women. The event followed similar gatherings in Dublin.
Writing in her column that there is “no justification” for such a narrative, Baroness O’Loan urged people to “keep that problem in perspective”, referring to the increased violence in society.
“Men are almost twice as likely as women to be the victims of violent crime, according to a British crime survey last year,” she wrote.
“Women attack men too, and there is a real problem of domestic violence visited on men by women. The risk of violence in homes and on the streets is a growing problem.
“However, it is important to keep that problem in perspective, so that we are not overwhelmed by fear.
“It is important, too, to ensure that the way we talk about it does not demonise the innocent and does not compound the problem.”
Referring to a suggestion in the House of Lords by the Green Party Peer Jenny Jones, to create a 6pm “curfew” for men – a comment the peer later said was ironic – Baroness O’Loan dismissed such calls as “nonsense”.
“To impose a curfew on all men because a small minority of them attack others would be to discriminate against men,” added Mrs O’Loan.
“What does this do to today’s little boys and girls as they grow up? Do little girls begin to think that all men are evil, as the dialogue suggests?
“Do little boys think that ‘men’ attack women? What does this do their understanding of themselves as they grow towards manhood?”
Adding that she did not believe there to be a “problem” around men, Mrs O’Loan instead added that she saw violence generally as a “growing problem” within society.
“That violence is perpetrated by both men and women. Anyone who attacks another person does wrong. Anyone who assaults another person commits a crime,” she explained.
“I think we need to be very careful in our public discourse that we do not instil unwarranted fear in young people – fear of being attacked, and fear of being seen as an attacker.
“We need to think again, and to use language which is capable of identifying evil without casting all men as evildoers.”