The killings of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard has prompted discussion on female safety across Britain. Asian Standard has spoken to women in Bradford say that they don’t feel comfortable walking alone, especially at night, and only go out when necessary.
Primary School teacher Sabina Nessa was walking to meet a friend at a pub on Friday, 17 September when she was killed and hidden in a park in South East London.
London Metropolitan Police detectives believe that Ms Nessa was attacked at 8.30pm when the park was likely to be full of joggers and dog walkers.
Her body was found nearly 24 hours later covered with leaves near a community centre in the park.
Koci Selamaj, 36, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, was charged on Monday on suspicion of the murder of the 28-year-old. Mr Selamaj, who used an Albanian interpreter, is due to appear at the Old Bailey on Thursday and will be asked to enter a plea at the same court on 26 October.
Ms Nessa’s death comes only six months after the murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive who lived in Brixton, South London, who was originally from York.
Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens abducted Sarah Everard in Clapham, south London, before raping and murdering her. Mr Couzens was jailed for life, given the harshest sentence UK Court’s can deliver. He will die in prison unless granted leave based on exceptional compassionate circumstances.
Talking about female safety in Bradford, Mahnoor Akhlaq, a student at Leeds University who is originally from Bradford, said: “I think it’s a norm to walk with someone if possible or be on the phone to someone or tell someone where you are – something women, unfortunately, do unconsciously.”
Ms Akhlaq mentions that she avoids going out at night alone unless it is necessary. She said: “I avoid going out at night alone unless it is essential. If it is late and I’m walking across the street to a neighbour’s house, for example, I would feel fine doing that but if I had to walk in town alone, I’d feel less comfortable.
“Tomorrow I am attending an event in Leeds, and it finishes quite late around 11pm, so I’ve already planned to get a taxi home. My mum is concerned about me getting a taxi so I’ve already said that I will text her the details of the Uber. I would definitely feel safer if I was with a man.”
Ms Akhlaq mentions that she is moving to Morocco soon to study and almost every person she has told has asked about her safety. She says that “unfortunately in countries such as Morocco you have to be extra cautious, and I am aware of that, but that shouldn’t be a reason to hold me back from an opportunity like that.”
One woman from Bradford said she doesn’t ever feel comfortable walking alone in Bradford. Jahura Rahman said: “I never feel safe walking in Bradford. Every time I’ve been on a walk on my own there’s always been a car that has stopped and beeped at me. It’s either you get cat called or stared at.”
Maria Imaan Battul from Bradford mentions that in Bradford, it is not just women who feel unsafe, but some men feel insecure on the streets of Bradford too. She also mentions that the deaths of Sabrina Nessa and Sarah Everard shouldn’t be the reasons that women’s safety is discussed, it should be talked about all the time.
Ms Battul said: “How can a city with high statistics of burglary, vandalism, theft, speeding cars, accidents and harassment ever make women feel safe? The term ‘safety’ needs to be revolutionised because it’s now beyond a joke.
“Why does it have to take a death to make a move or discuss issues – that shows us the magnitude of carelessness towards this subject. It’s a vicious cycle the way this is all being referred to and discussed in society. It’s not just women that feel unsafe, it’s men and those who have recognised them themselves having a different gender that do too.
“Of course, women are the main victims. The streets and roads are not safe for anybody. It’s not about making Bradford look bad because it already is in some ways – we can’t hide from that but it’s about saying to the councillors that they need to come forward and invest money in the safety of people.”
It is not just outdoor spaces that can make women feel unsafe accessing alone. Over the weekend, Asian Standard’s editor, Fatima Patel, was faced with an uncomfortable experience at an Inspirational Women’s Foundation activity session at a sports facility within an educational setting that resulted in a man being suspended from the football team he was a part of.
Ms Patel said: “The incident left me feeling uncomfortable and questioning if the place I was in, was safe for women. But what was harder to digest is being told that men get a little rowdy after a game of football, you must just accept it. Why should we accept it?
“These attitudes and behaviours must change if we want to live in an equal and safe society. This type of behaviour must be challenged, and I am deeply grateful that this incident has been taken seriously, with swift action and training in place to ensure these situations can be prevented. I thank all parties for working together to help make spaces safer for all.”
Alison Lowe, Deputy Mayor of West Yorkshire for Policing and Crime commented on the current situation. She said: Mayor Brabin and I are sickened at the murder of Sarah Everard and the death of Sabina Nessa.
“As women who have personally experienced gender-based violence, (GBV), we are committed to using our privileged positions of power for good and to deliver safer streets and homes for women and girls in West Yorkshire.
“The Mayor and I are working with West Yorkshire Police to understand the work they are currently doing to address GBV and how together, we can improve our responses further.
“We will also be taking the testimonies we received from our call to evidence on the safety of women and girls and will incorporate these into the Mayor’s Police and Crime Plan which is the document that sets out her priorities and how she will hold the police to account for delivery against these.
“Mayor Brabin and I understand the very real fear women and girls have about their safety in the communities they live, and we are working with police and women themselves to address the root cause of this fear, male violence.
“This includes supporting the roll out of West Yorkshire Police’s own commissioned Pol-Ed course for young people in schools, which covers issues of consent and personal safety as well as commissioning a range of preventative and victims’ services such as our state-of-the-art Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), ISVA and Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVA) specialists and programmes intended to prevent young people becoming perpetrators.
“Preventing violence against women and girls is the biggest focus of Tracy Brabin’s mayoralty and will remain the one we are both most committed to delivering against for the rest of our three-year term.”
Pol-Ed is a free education resource created by West Yorkshire Police for Years 1-13, covering the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Association programme of study.
West Yorkshire Police has been contacted with no response yet.
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