17 May 2022

Mid Ulster misogyny motion was 'watered-down', says campaigner

A campaigner from Raise Your Voice said the group will be working with the council on the issue.

Mid Ulster misogyny motion was 'watered-down', says campaigner

Participants at a recent Raise Your Voice workshop in Mid Ulster.

A representative from an anti-sexual harassment group has described a motion passed at a recent meeting of Mid Ulster District Council as a 'watered-down' version of their original plan.

The motion, brought successfully in other council areas, was designed to make progress towards having misogyny designated as a hate crime.

Helen Crickard, from Raise Your Voice, says technical issues at the council's online meeting, and an undue haste to bring the motion to council may have resulted in some confusion.

“It was unfortunate, because it really went a bit quick for us,” she told the County Derry Post.

“Normally with the motions we put to council, we would meet with councillors online, or send them a bit of information about our project and what we're trying to do.

“I didn't realise it was going to come up so quick. The amendment that the DUP put in isn't really what we were asking for.

“We want this motion to go forward with everybody behind it. I don't want it to become a petty, party political decision.

“I think because it was online, it just seemed to slip through. I think the SDLP thought the amendment was on top of the motion, and it slipped through as an amendment, which isn't what we wanted.

“It's gone through saying that they want to know what the crime figures were in the area for the different categories. They wanted a breakdown of that.

“We won't be putting the motion forward to them again, because it wouldn't be worthwhile resource-wise. What they have done is said they will support the Raise Your Voice project.”

Sinn Féin councillor Cora Corry, who brought the motion to the council, said she was disappointed the SDLP did not support it, despite Cllr Kerri Hughes speaking in support.

“I was shocked and surprised that the SDLP did not support the motion I had tabled backing the 'Raise Your Voice' campaign,” she said.

“The sad reality is that we still witness sexist and misogynistic commentary in everyday life, something that is made acceptable when it is tolerated.

“The SDLP decision not to support the motion is all the more surprising given the fact that the party actually proposed the same motion in Derry and Strabane.”

Mid Ulster SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn said the party had contacted Raise Your Voice to clarify their position.

“I contacted Raise Your Voice on Monday morning, got speaking to them and said we were fully supportive in changing misogyny to a hate crime,” he said.

“I've asked them to come in and give a presentation to all councillors and then after that, to give us training as part of the Sinn Féin motion.

“We want a local solution and we want to work with all councillors.

“With something like misogyny, you don't want the council split on it. You want everyone to come along on the same wavelength.

“When I contacted Raise Your Voice, their preferred method was to come in and give a presentation first, give the training, and then for the motion to go in after that.”

The motion is just one aspect of what Raise Your Voice are trying to do.

Helen Crickard says eliminating low-level street harassment can help end the normalisation of sexual harassment.

“There is a pyramid of sexual violence. The bottom of the pyramid has small things like jokes and 'banter', but that's what allows people to go further,” she said.

“Acceptance of that behaviour creates a greater acceptance of worse behaviour. Figures of domestic violence don't decrease, no matter how many people are put in jail.

“If we can eliminate that normalisation of sexual harassment, we can help eliminate domestic violence. It's about creating a culture change.

“People think they can put stuff online and there's no consequences because they don't see the impact. We have to bring it back to how people would feel if that happened to their mother or daughter.

“All these things impact how women carry out their everyday lives, something men don't realise, but once you draw attention to that, most people start to understand it.”

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