The Conservative Group on Essex County Council has passed a motion calling for action to be taken to change the culture of sexual harassment towards girls and women. The motion holistically addressed this significant issue, looking beyond schools and seeking to engage men, women, and girls from across our society to effectively tackle the problem.
Considerable work has already been undertaken by Essex County Council through the Safety Advisory Group (SAG), including research and engagement to understand the challenges faced by females in the county in more detail to take meaningful and effective action. The SAG recently launched a survey to hear views about public safety and attitudes towards women in society. Essex Residents are urged to take part in this survey which runs until 24th July so that the Group can hear the direct views of residents on this matter. (Take part at: https://survey.euro.confirmit.com/wix/0/p288717880200.aspx?ebrm=00000010&fbclid=IwAR0F1kx3ej0SlWNB6kWCLpddG2-pnnXZQkJyptKDqGH-0SF86L6QRqOozXY).
During the debate, the importance of working in partnership with organisations was also highlighted. Praise was given to Essex Child and Family Wellbeing services who are delivering a whole society approach.
The role of education was stressed. the motion flagged the importance of teaching Relationship, Sex and Health Education (RHSE) should be taught to a high standard in schools and colleges across the county.
In a passionate debate members made several thoughtful interventions. Cllr Andrew Sheldon, explained the pressures on children today and the negative effect of social media which means that the issue of sexual harassment goes well beyond schools. He observed that more support required to enable parents to understand the issue.
A series of recommendations were made by the council including for the Chairman of the Safety Advisory Group to present a draft report and set of recommendations – for which £500,000 of funding has been allocated. It was agreed that the Cabinet would continue to take a lead across educational establishments in Essex to improve engagement between multiagency, safeguarding partners and promote that effective joint working between safeguarding partnerships. Finally, the motion called on the government to implement age verification for legal pornography sites.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, the Deputy Leader of Essex County Council, who Chairs the Safety Advisory Group said: “I am pleased that Council voted to support this motion and the recommendations it contains. Sexual Harassment towards women and girls is a societal issue and we all have a role in addressing it. I am establishing a cross-party group to hear views from all parties and the communities they represent. Essex County Council is committed to working with our partners to help tackle this issue.”
This Conservative Motion set out a plan to help address this issue which affects so many in our community. It looked beyond schools and out towards wider society to address attitudes and make real progress.