Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice
I am deeply saddened to start 2022 by making a written statement mourning the tragic loss of another young woman; Ashling Murphy.
The news today carries headlines of a man arrested in relation to the death of Ashling. While it is too early to comment on the particulars of the criminal investigation, one thing is clear; like Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and Wenjing Lin, Ashling is no longer here.
Ashling’s death has rightly caused an outpouring of grief. Vigils have been organised in various locations including one tonight in Cardiff. These vigils are an important space for people to remember and to mourn Ashling but also to come together to say ‘this needs to stop. Now.’
Women should be safe while out running. They should be safe to walk through public spaces. They should be safe to go to work. They should be safe in the day. They should be safe at night.
Violence against women and girls is far too common. Harassment, abuse and violence are daily occurrences for women and have conditioned their lives for far too long. We must unite to end violence on our streets, we must unite for change and we must unite to allow everyone to live fear free.
In the wake of this tragic incident, many men are asking how they can be a better ally. You can help by not committing, excusing or remaining silent about any kind of harassment or violence against women. Where it is safe to do so, call out inappropriate behaviour.
Violence against women and girls is a societal problem which requires a societal response. We must challenge attitudes and change behaviours of those who behave abusively. It is not for women to modify their behaviour, it is for abusers to change theirs.
Welsh Government has always been clear about its ambition to end violence against women and girls. That is why the Welsh Government Programme for Government commits to strengthening the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Strategy to include a focus on violence against women in the street and workplace as well as the home in order to make Wales the safest place in Europe to be a woman.
The Welsh Government is currently consulting on its next five-year VAWDASV National Strategy alongside a group of key partner organisations including the police and specialist sector. I urge the people of Wales to respond to this consultation so that we can all work together to create the Wales we want to see, a Wales where women are safe: Consultation on the refresh of the violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence National Strategy for 2022 to 2026
Our latest campaign ‘Call out only’ aims to help people identify behaviours associated with street harassment and acknowledges that the experiences of women and girls are serious and prevalent and can cause fear, alarm and distress. It calls on the public (males particularly) to call out and challenge assumptions about harassment against women - often wrongly seen as ‘harmless’ - with their peers, friends and colleagues. Throughout January we will be focussing our messaging on harassment of women and girls in public and exercise settings.
We will continue to work in partnership with specialist services to raise awareness of the inequality and safety issues faced by women and girls, and to end all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, and will continue to work with Welsh police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners, public safety boards and the Crown Prosecution Service to instil confidence in victims to report incidents of abuse and violence when they occur and to hold those who abuse to account.
Wales will not be a bystander to abuse.