A local Senedd Member has called for the expansion of the Safe Spaces Scheme across Wales and requested that the Senedd becomes the first ‘Safe Space’ in Cardiff Bay for those seeking sanctuary.
Speaking after the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s murderer, Joyce Watson MS said:
“This man’s unspeakable cruelty has raised this to the top of the public agenda, but the chilling reality is that male violence against women is all around us. The Femicide Census estimates that at least 109 UK women have been killed by men so far in 2021.”
Joyce Watson MS, Mid and West Wales, raised the issue as a topical question in the Senedd to help women feel safe in public places.
Mrs Watson paid tribute to Sabina Nessa and called for action to strengthen Wales’s End Violence against Women strategy to include a focus on public spaces and workplaces.
Joyce Watson MS said:
“It is with great sadness that another young woman has lost her life. Her name is Sabina Nessa, and we all must remember and say her name.
“Women and girls don’t feel safe in public places. Public sexual harassment is often described as an epidemic, but it isn’t new. It’s endemic in our society. What has changed, though, is how women and girls, through social media and websites, can now turn their grief and anger into organised resistance, and campaigns like the White Ribbon, Everyone’s Invited and Our Streets Now are doing amazing work to raise awareness and lobby for cultural reform.
“We need to make women and girls feel safe in public, especially with nightlife reopening and university students returning. The Safe Places initiative is a network of venues and support where anyone feeling intimidated, at risk or scared can take refuge. It’s up and running in Cardiff now, and people can download the Safe Places app to find the nearest open door on their way home. I know that hotels in Swansea and elsewhere have also adopted similar schemes. It’s certainly something we should be looking to expand in Wales, and I would be very grateful for Welsh Government support in doing that. Today, I wrote to the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Senedd to ask if we here can use and offer a safe place to keep people safe in Cardiff Bay. I was very pleased to hear that I had a positive response.”
Minister Jane Hutt thanked Joyce Watson for her long-standing commitment to tackling violence against women, congratulated partners in the safe space initiative in Cardiff, sharing the hope that the Senedd could become a ‘safe space,’ and confirmed that Wales will not be a bystander to abuse.
Jane Hutt responded:
“Can I thank Joyce Watson for her long-term, long-standing commitment to tackling violence against women, which was well before she even became elected to the Senedd. It’s a really important time coming up, with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children.
“This is very good news, that the Senedd may, hopefully, become part of the safe places initiative. The Commission, I’m sure, will be looking at that very carefully. And I congratulate the businesses in Cardiff who started this safe places initiative recognising that this is all partners—private, public and third sector—that come together to address this scourge, this endemic of violence against women.
“Our next violence against women and domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy will take on these wider dimensions of violence against women in public places and in the workplace. We’ve been clear always as a Welsh Government about our ambition to end violence against women and girls. It is a societal problem which requires a societal response, and it is about challenging attitudes and changing behaviours of those who behave abusively. And this is crucial, Wales will not be a bystander to abuse. But I’m glad that police and crime commissioners, public safety boards are all coming together. We’re consulting on our draft strategy, and I know that the Live Fear Free campaigns will be taking on this huge issue in terms of awareness of stalking, harassment, abuse and violence against women in all aspects of life, including the street and other public places.”
Joyce Watson MS introduced White Ribbon campaigning to Wales in her previous role, and has led on it since election to the Senedd in 2007.
She has run the Not In My Name campaign with the Women’s Institute in Wales since 2012, with events including a Senedd candlelight vigil planned for 22 November 2021.
Thursday 25 November is the United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and also White Ribbon Day, where men and boys make a stand against violence and fulfil the White Ribbon Promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.