Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry has vowed to make far-reaching changes to help women being disproportionately mistreated by the justice system.
She said Labour will review laws on stalking, whistleblowing and co-habitation to ensure women are better protected by the law.
Speaking at the party conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, Thornberry confirmed that barrister Marina Wheeler, an employment specialist, had been appointed to review laws directly affecting women.
Thornberry said that for too long, women in co-habiting couples have had no rights if the relationship ended.
She pointed out that if there were no joint arrangements or shared parental dues then men could leave their partners with nothing, ‘especially if he has the means to take to court’.
Thornberry suggested women were being forced to marry or stay in an unhappy relationship ‘just to avoid ending up on the street’.
Labour has said it wants to give women who live with their partners the same rights, including over property, as married women should the relationship end.
She moved on to the issue of sexual harassment at work. Labour wants to change the guidance which states that personal grievances (for example bullying, harassment, discrimination) are not covered by whistleblowing law, unless a particular case is in the public interest.
‘For too long a woman suffering sexual harassment at work has faced a terrible choice,’ said Thornberry. ‘If she speaks out the man responsible might be investigated but even then she still risks losing her job and wider employment rights while he just gets a slap on the wrist.’
Finally she told the conference that the criminal justice system must change its approach to stalking. Thornberry said women who report they are being stalked are being told by police they have to wait until something serious happens.
‘It is time that we treated stalking with the seriousness it deserves, strengthening the use of stalking protection orders, developing the right for women to know the identity of their online stalker and working to end the practice of stalkers using our court system to bring vexatious claims against their victims.’
Thornberry told the conference hall: ‘No woman should have to live in fear, no woman should have to suffer in silence and no woman should have to hope for the best when it comes to keeping a roof over her head.’
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