Every Women Safe in Lambeth: Licensing

Testimony from women in Lambeth about their experiences of sexual harassment and violence have demanded that we make women’s safety in the night time economy an absolute priority. Our new licensing policy ensures that bars and pubs either take this seriously or lose their licence.

In Lambeth, we take a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment, abuse and domestic violence. We want to use every opportunity to prevent it. That’s why we’re currently consulting on a set of proactive new policies which look at the way we licence pubs and nightclubs, as a key opportunity to improve women’s safety in our borough.

Lambeth has a fantastic nightlife, bringing hundreds of jobs and lots of money to the local economy. We want it to continue to flourish, but it can only flourish if everyone who enjoys a great night out can go home safely at the end of it.

Sadly, we know not everyone does. Lambeth’s Women’s network, the Labour Women’s movement and Movement for Change recently undertook a large scale research project, where hundreds of women were interviewed and asked about their experiences in Brixton and other Lambeth night spots. The findings were shocking. Click here to read the findings

The statistics show a startling picture but only represent the tip of the iceberg. The testimony time and time again talked about women not feeling that anything would happen if they did report it or that it wouldn’t be taken seriously and recorded.

One quote from the research paints the picture quite clearly:

‘I know when a guy grabs my bum or something I should say something, but I always find myself thinking I just can’t be bothered – I did tell a member of barstaff once, and they just didn’t see it as a problem. In fact he told me to take it as a compliment!’

Sexual Offences

Other Sexual Offences

Rape Offences

Serious Sexual Offences

Domestic violence incidents

2011

519

332

187

429

4590

2010

559

353

206

461

4946

2009

537

362

175

426

5110

2008

488

355

133

396

4849

This situation can’t continue. It’s crucial that we use these real experiences of women in Lambeth to inform our policies. That’s why the report also offered some practical suggestions; small steps that licensed businesses could take or changes they could make, that would make a huge difference to women’s safety in Lambeth.

Some premises in Brixton have agreed to trial the measures, which included:

  • Making sure that staff are trained to be sensitive and receptive to women when they feel unsafe. Whether it’s raising concerns about an individual, or needing to report a more serious incident, women must feel 100% able to come forward, and know that staff will respond sensitively and responsibly.
  • Ensuring there is a safe place that drinks can be left unattended with risk of spiking.
  • Promoting safe, known, taxi companies, which can be called from the premises, as well as warning of the dangers of unlicensed minicabs.
  • Providing a safe space for people to sober up if necessary, or wait to be collected, to avoid sending inebriated individuals out onto the streets at night.

The early indications are promising.

We know that in an ideal world, women should be no less safe than men on a night out; it should be a given that women can enjoy a great night out without risk of having a drink spiked, or feeling fearful of walking home alone. However, the reality is that these are real problems, and we want to take these practical steps to tackle them. But we also need to change the broader culture, to try to eliminate these problems from the start.

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That’s why we’ll be coupling these safety measures with a strong messaging campaign which makes it clear it is the potential predators we have zero tolerance for. To only tell women not to get attacked, rather telling men not to attack, simply shifts the responsibility in the wrong direction. We don’t want to tell women they shouldn’t enjoy a drink or have a good night out, it is about 100% zero tolerance of the men who see that as an opportunity to exploit them, and the culture that treats it as normal.

The local night time economy can only stand to benefit when all its patrons are safe. So please respond to our licensing consultation by clicking here and if you want to read some of the supporting materials click here

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Author: jackhopkins

Labour Councillor for Oval ward in London Borough of Lambeth, and Cabinet Member for Jobs and Growth covering economic development, regeneration, planning and entrepreneurship. (formerly Community Safety) Interested in partnerships, training and development, social mobility and Arsenal.

2 thoughts on “Every Women Safe in Lambeth: Licensing”

  1. This is a great policy and program, which shouldn’t be limited to Lambeth.

    BTW: Did you mean: “Ensuring there is a safe place that drinks can be left unattended without a risk of spiking.”?

    1. Thanks Richard
      re: spiking – when people go outside for a cigarette for example that they can’t just leave their drink on a ledge somewhere which is not safe.
      I’m hoping if it is a success that other boroughs will follow it up
      Best wishes and many thanks
      Jack

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