Liz Truss has promised to crack down on violence against women and girls, by introducing a standalone offence to criminalise street harassment and a national domestic abuse register.
The Tory leadership hopeful announced a package of measures to better protect women and girls from violence and abuse, as she claimed it is the responsibility of all political leaders to “do more”.
She insisted that over the last two years, the nation has been “shocked” by the number of high profile murders of women, many in London.
Under her plans, a standalone offence to criminalise harassment would be introduced alongside a domestic abuse register, which would include coercive and controlling behaviour and financial abuse.
Ms Truss believes the register would break the cycle of repeat offending.
Her Government would also require convicted offenders to inform the police of arrangements with new partners and their children, and failure to do so would lead to harsh penalties.
Violence against women and girls doesn’t have to be inevitable. Women should be able to walk the streets without fear of harm, and perpetrators must expect to be punishedLiz Truss
The Foreign Secretary said: “Over the last two years, our nation has been shocked by a number of high profile murders of women, many here in London. It is the responsibility of all political leaders, including us in Westminster and the Mayor of London, to do more.
“Violence against women and girls doesn’t have to be inevitable. Women should be able to walk the streets without fear of harm, and perpetrators must expect to be punished.
“Through increased police training, new offences, faster processes for rape victims and our domestic abuse register we will ensure victims are protected, and crimes are prevented in the first place.”
As part of her crackdown, which builds on the Government’s Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, the Foreign Secretary also pledged to accelerate the process for handling rape cases.
She would ensure cases are able to reach investigatory standards from the start to allow quicker progress through the courts.
In order to be able to respond effectively to vulnerable victims, police officers would also receive specific training.
Conservative former Home Office minister Rachel Maclean said: “Women and girls should be free to live their lives in safety and I know as prime minister Liz will deliver tougher safeguards for domestic abuse victims, including tagging for the most violent offenders.”
Kathleen Spencer Chapman, head of policy advocacy and research at Plan International UK, said: “Youth activists through our #CrimeNotCompliment have been calling for public sexual harassment to be made illegal for a long time, echoing millions of women and girls across the country.
“So it’s encouraging to see this being heard in this commitment from Liz Truss, alongside the Government’s current consultation.”
Maya Tutton, co-founder of Our Streets Now, a campaign to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence, said: “This commitment is a big step in the right direction. Any legislation must make all forms of public sexual harassment illegal, be available for all those who need it, and recognise the unwanted and harmful sexualised nature of this behaviour.
“Legislation is just one part of the puzzle, and we hope that both candidates commit to the whole society, prevention-based approach needed to tackle the roots of this problem.”