Every three days a woman is killed by a man. One in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Consider that in the light of how many women and girls you know. Neither of those statements is new, yet it seems as though it took the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa to make them relevant. As if violence against women and girls has only just dawned on us.
Shocking cases in their own right, they also contribute to the anecdotal evidence for why the time has arrived to push back against officially endorsed places of sexual entertainment in our county. And why it was surely inappropriate for Cheltenham Borough Council’s Licensing Committee to agree to the renewal of a sexual entertainment licence during next year’s National Hunt Festival.
Gloucestershire remains one of the safest places in the country to live and work, but that does not mean we should be complacent with the potential discrimination, harassment and abuse a strip venue may cause to women and girls. Detailed evidence is hard to come by as such incidents are rarely reported, but the council’s own survey shows that 72% of respondents did not feel safe at night, rising to 75% during race week.
Do we have to have a rape on our streets for change to happen?
Women are reluctant to go out on weekends
I understand how current legislation made it difficult for the council to refuse the application but someone needs to take a lead by changing the culture of immoral behaviour towards lone women in the area. We have a duty, by any means necessary, to eradicate discrimination, harassment and abuse against women and girls and should do everything we can to ensure their safety not only during Cheltenham race week, but every other day too.
We need a county-wide debate on whether the public objectification of women in strip clubs, and the risk that such clubs pose to women on the streets of Gloucestershire, is still acceptable.
I am keen to start a petition to close legal loopholes which allow licensed sex clubs and temporary “pop-up” strip clubs to be created.
Women are reluctant to go out on weekends, particularly during Cheltenham Race week, due to the increase in unwarranted sexual behaviour and interactions. We have an excellent night-time economy in Cheltenham, and I want women and girls to feel safe while they’re enjoying it.
*25 November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women