UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo says UK has 'sexist culture'


Rashida Manjoo: "What is clear from portrayals of women and girls is that there is a boys' club sexist culture"


The UK has a "boys' club sexist culture", a UN investigator looking at violence against women has said.

Rashida Manjoo is on a visit to the UK, studying its approach to the issue.

She said sexism was worse in the UK than in other places, and warned that the government's austerity measures were having a "disproportionate impact" on women's risk of violence.

The government said it wanted to end violence against women, and had ring-fenced £40m for support services.

Ms Manjoo made her comments as she presented her preliminary findings, before she is due to report back to the UN Human Rights Council.

The part-time professor in public law at the University of Cape Town raised fears that sexual bullying and harassment in schools was "routine".

She said sexism in the UK was more "in your face" than in other countries, and raised serious concerns about the portrayal of women and girls in the media.

Yarl's Wood

She said the British media was responsible for "negative and over-sexualised portrayals of women", with some websites and TV channels dealing in the "marketisation of their bodies".

Ms Manjoo said it was clear "there is a boys' club, sexist culture that exists, and it does lead to perceptions about women and girls in this country".

She said public spending cuts were having a "disproportionate impact" on women, and raised concerns about reductions in legal aid for domestic violence victims.

Yarl's Wood is the main removal centre holding women and families who are facing deportation

"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 said.

She said the cuts "not only [affected] the specific provision of 'violence against women' services", but also had a more general impact as poverty and unemployment were known contributory factors.

The inspector also said she had wanted to visit Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre in Bedfordshire, which houses hundreds of women, to "objectively seek information on violations being experienced".

But she said she believed an order to stop her gaining access to the facility had come from the highest levels at the Home Office.

'Never agreed'

She had been due to visit the site with the help of the Prisons Inspectorate, she told journalists, but was told by the centre's director that she would not be allowed access.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Violence against women and girls in any form is unacceptable and the government has shown its commitment to ending it.

"We have ring-fenced nearly £40m for specialist support services and national helplines."

On the subject of Ms Manjoo's itinerary, the spokeswoman said: "A comprehensive programme was drawn up for the special rapporteur's visit, including meetings with the home secretary, the minister for crime prevention, and the chief inspector of prisons.

"Several other options, including a trip to a women's refuge, were turned down by the special rapporteur.

"A tour of Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre was never agreed as part of this fact-finding mission."