Beware – this post has explicit references to violence against women and may be upsetting to some readers, as LEE MARGARET WEBSTER, a local Labour activist, challenges George Galloway‘s by-election candidate on the issue of rape
“Where do you stand on the Assange rape allegations? Are you clear what constitutes rape, and what will you do to tackle violence against women in Croydon?”
It was a straightforward question to Croydon North Respect party candidate, Lee Jasper.
It’s not surprising that a local woman would ask this question, since Jasper’s campaign manager, George Galloway MP, has repeatedly refused to apologise for his comments defending the behaviour of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
I simply want to know whether Jasper supports Galloway’s comments or not. Yet after three polite tweets, an equally polite email and a week of nothing but silence in response, the time has come to raise the lid, and remind Croydon voters what we’re dealing with in Galloway, Jasper and the “Respect” party.
Galloway stated, in defence of Assange: “Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them. It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘do you mind if I do it again?’ It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”
Let me state here and now – no always means no. And sex with a person who does not consent is rape. And if someone is asleep, that counts as a “no” too.
The UK Sexual Offences Act (2003) is clear that “where a person is asleep or otherwise unconscious, it should be assumed that they did not consent”. Sex with someone who is asleep is rape.
It’s really not that difficult, it’s just about basic respect for women. But respect for women seems to be something that the so-called Respect party lacks. After Galloway’s comments and refusal to apologise, the Respect party’s leader, Salma Yaqoob, resigned her post, saying “to have to make a choice between that [anti-imperialist stance] and standing up for the rights of women was a false choice”.
Campaigning by women rape survivors in Bradford, calling on their MP to clarify his position on rape law, has led to intimidation and harassment.
So what does this all have to do with Croydon North? One of Jasper’s Twitter mates has already told me that rape “is not exactly a crucial local issue, is it?” In fact, the reverse is true. If someone is forcing you to have sex against your will, it’s about as local as it gets.
And in Croydon, violence against women is widespread. In 2011, according to Croydon Council’s records, there were 5,972 reported incidents of violence against women. That’s 17 incidents every day.
Notwithstanding the emotional impacts on women’s lives, violence against women also costs the borough an estimated £37 million a year. In London, Croydon has among the highest rates of multiple perpetrator rapes. Between 2008 and 2011, there were five domestic homicides here in our town.
It seems fair to me that someone who wants to be the MP for Croydon North would have looked at these figures and would have thought about how he might tackle the problems we face, should he be elected to parliament. Furthermore, I’d expect at the very least an answer to my tweets and email.
All I can surmise, from the total lack of response (given that Jasper is on Twitter every few hours, and answering other queries), is that he does indeed stand by the misguided and misogynistic views of his campaign manager, George Galloway. These are dangerous views, and views that are not welcome in Croydon, a town dealing with high levels of violence against women. These attitudes push violence against women even further under the carpet – women don’t report, and violence worsens.
Women of Croydon deserve better. We deserve a town where we can live in freedom from fear of violence. We deserve a town where we can go where we want, when we want and know that we are safe. We deserve to be free from the likes of Galloway, who denies that rape happens, and blames us when we are raped.
I hope Croydon women join me in giving short shrift to Galloway and his views – he is not welcome here.
I still wait for an answer from Lee Jasper – do you stand by the views of your campaign manager?
- If you are experiencing violence or abuse, please call the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
- Galloway to the fore for Jasper’s Respec’Savers launch
- Click here for all our coverage of the Croydon North by-election
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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