U.K. Minister Demands Culture Change After Everard Death

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Britons must take responsibility to educate boys about their behavior and attitudes toward girls, in order to create a more equal society in the wake of the death of Sarah Everard, the U.K. home secretary said.

Priti Patel told Parliament on Monday that while legislation to keep women safe remained important, “cultural and behavioral aspects” must also change.

Her comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his backing to the country’s most senior police chief, who faced calls to quit after a vigil in memory of Everard resulted in police officers handcuffing and removing a number of women from the scene.

The death of Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, has dominated British news coverage in recent days and fueled debate over the safety of women. Everard disappeared on March 3 after walking through a park at night in south London. An off-duty police officer has been charged with her abduction and murder.

Public anger over the case was amplified by images of male officers pinning down female demonstrators at the vigil on Saturday evening. Speaking in Parliament, Patel said an independent inquiry will be launched to examine the police actions.

Patel said that as a “mother bringing up a young son” she knows it is “absolutely vital” to underline how women and girls should be treated with respect and as equals. “There is so much more work to do, legislation can only go so far,” the minister added.

Men and Boys

Former prime minister Theresa May also said laws would not be enough to “eradicate violence against women”. She told members of Parliament it is important to teach “young men and boys about respect for women and what is and what isn’t acceptable in a relationship”.

Earlier on Monday, Johnson said he had full confidence in Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, despite controversy over police tactics at the vigil.

Johnson said the “fundamental issue” for government and society was that “women in particular must feel that when they make serious complaints about violence, about assault, that they are properly heard”, adding: “We are going to make sure that that happens.”

Patel said a government survey on violence against women and girls had received 78,000 responses between 6pm Friday -- when it was reopened in the wake of the “outpouring of grief” over Everard’s death -- and 11am Monday, a figure she said was “completely unprecedented”.

“What has happened has reminded women everywhere of the steps we take each day to keep ourselves safe,” Patel said.

But the opposition Labour Party said the government was failing to address violence against women and girls. “It is a chronic failure from this government -- and meetings and reopening surveys alone are nowhere near enough,” Labour’s home affairs spokesman Nick Thomas-Symonds said.

Johnson earlier defended new policing legislation being debated in Parliament on Monday and Tuesday after claims from Labour that it doesn’t go far enough in protecting women.

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