'Pervasive' sexist culture is damaging Britain

(PA)

The UN's Special Rapporteur on violence against women has criticised the "boys' club sexist culture" which she believes to be dominant throughout the UK.

Rashida Manjoo, who is compiling a report to present before the UN Human Rights Council in June, has completed a 16 day tour of the UK during which she observed the treatment of women.

Speaking of her initial findings yesterday, Manjoo claimed that sexist attitudes are commonplace and are often perpetuated by the British media. The "marketisation" of young women's bodies has led to their "over-sexualisation", she added.

"Have I seen this level of sexist culture in other countries? It hasn't been so in-your-face in other countries. I haven't seen that so pervasively in other countries. I'm sure it exists but it wasn't so much and so pervasive," Manjoo declared.

"I'm not sure what gives rise to a more visible presence of sexist portrayals of women and girls in this country in particular. What is clear from these indications of portrayals of women and girls is that there is a boys' club sexist culture. That exists and it does lead to perceptions about women and girls."

She also highlighted "the easy availability of porn, the use of social media" and "routine" bullying in schools as tools by which women are subjected to harassment and sexism. The Sun's Page 3 also got a mention.

Ms Manjoo, who hails from South Africa, warned that extensive government cuts are having a negative impact on women in the UK, noting that "access to trauma services, financial support and housing are crucial, yet current reforms to the funding and benefits system continue to adversely impact women's ability to address safety and other relevant issues".

She also revealed that her attempts to visit and report on the controversial Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre for women in Bedfordshire were blocked, possibly by the Home Office, though a government spokesperson has denied this allegation.

While some have welcomed her findings, including founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Laura Bates, who told The Independent that Manjoo's report will be "a wakeup call to recognise the depth and severity" of sexism.

However, others have been quick to point out that the UK has specific legislation to protect women, whereas in many countries they are systematically abused by law.

Some have noted that South Africa, Ms Manjoo's home country, is often labelled "the rape capital of the world".

"Violence against women and girls in any form is unacceptable and the Government has shown its commitment to ending it," commented a spokesperson for the Home Office.

Ms Manjoo, however, apparently anticipated this response, as she praised UK legislation that seeks to put an end to overt sexist practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation, but added that it is simply not enough and that greater "consistency" is needed to tackle the wider issue of "undervaluing and devaluing women".

"All the harms emanating due to a sexist culture that exists in the country, and which impacts all women and girls" are ignored, she warned.

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