London's streets are not safe 'for women or for girls', Sadiq Khan tells LBC

11 March 2021, 15:50 | Updated: 11 March 2021, 17:08

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

London's streets are not safe "for women or for girls", Mayor Sadiq Khan has told LBC.

He said it was "really important" that men in positions of power understand and empathise with the experiences of women and girls and use it to make positive change.

Mayor Khan said: "It's really important that people of my gender understand that if you're a woman or a girl your experience of our city in any public space, whether it's in the workplace or on the streets and public transport, is very different to if you're a man or boy.

READ MORE: PM says police must 'work fast to find all the answers' in Sarah Everard case

"It's really important that people like me in positions of influence understand that."

It follows the disappearance of Sarah Everard, who went missing after leaving a friend's house in Clapham at about 9pm on March 3.

Locals and police have been searching for her since but a tragic discovery of human remains had been found in an area of woodland in Kent.

It comes after a Metropolitan Police Officer was arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Pushed on what he was doing to improve safety on London's streets, Mayor Khan said: "We rewrote a whole new strategy to deal with violence against women and girls - that will last five years.

READ MORE: Women share how they've been forced to change their behaviour

READ MORE: Police officer arrested on suspicion of murder following Sarah Everard disappearance

"We've invested more than £16 million to make it safer for women and girls in our city who are on the receiving end of the violence.

"It takes being a victim a number of times, particularly of domestic abuse and domestic violence, where you come forward so we've supported victims groups, survivors groups and also funded refuge hostels and accommodation to give women a safe place to flee.

He also claimed that empathy was "missing from the conversation" and that people should question current male culture, "where it's a sign of masculinity to intimidate women and harass women on the streets".

Asked about the police response following the incident, Mr Khan said he was "not sure where the advice came from to women and girls to stay at home" and that "we shouldn't be victim-blaming or asking women or girls to regulate" their behaviour.

The tragic incident has since drawn floods of reaction from women all across the UK, many of whom have noted how current society means women to be wary of every man they pass.

"I do have to think of all men as attackers," said Nimco Ali, the government's adviser on violence against women and girls.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, she added that the onus should be shifted to men to be aware of the effects their behaviour may have on a young woman out walking along.

She said: "I can't sit there and try to assess which guy is the good guy and which one is not - it's for you guys to change your behaviour and the way you act in public spaces."

The incident has also caused anger, with Labour MP Alison McGovern telling LBC that it is not women's job to "deal with" men's behaviour.

"We feel like, as women, it's just our job to allow other people to do this sort of thing to us and I think you get that to that point where you're like 'actually no, this is not OK'," she told Shelagh Fogarty.

The angers has prompted vigil called 'Reclaim these streets' to be organised on Facebook and is due to take place at Clapham Common bandstand in south London at 6pm on Saturday.

One of the organisers, Caitlin Prowle, said she is "tired of being afraid" to walk around the streets where she lives.

The 23-year-old told reporters: "Together with a bunch of friends, we were just having the conversations that I imagine have been happening in a million WhatsApp groups across the country, with many women sharing their stories and how powerful that is and devastating at the same time.

"We thought it would be nice to set something up to channel some of that anger and hurt and group collective grief as well.

"It's been a really difficult, heavy week. Violence against women is an epidemic, but sometimes it does take something like this, that hits a bit closer to home, to really bring it to the fore and certainly in people's minds and people's consciousness.

"There is a real sense of 'enough is enough'. We can't carry on like this."