Bars, clubs and police join forces to keep women safe at night in London

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - London’s nightclubs, police and transport operators are teaming up to keep women safe when working or socializing at night in a plan unveiled on Monday that aims to encourage victims to speak out, and train people to respond to abuse and harassment.

The charter - led by the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan - offers guidance for venues, charities, councils and companies to better protect women at night through measures such as ensuring workplaces are safe and helping staff to spot and report abuse.

Staff working at night in London should be encouraged to look for incidents of women in danger, said Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

“We need to ensure they intervene and that offenders are seen to be dealt with,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The #MeToo campaign, which has sparked a flood of complaints about sexual harassment and assault from women globally, has prompted calls in Britain to class misogyny as a hate crime, as well as a government inquiry into the abuse of women in public.

The number of yearly sexual offences recorded by police in the capital has risen by nearly a third to 20,300 during the past year against 15,500 for the same period three years ago, according to statistics from London’s Metropolitan Police.

London accounts for 15 percent of sexual offences reported across England and Wales, yet the vast majority of victims never report incidents, 2016 figures from the mayor’s office show.

The plan - which has been backed by music venues Ministry of Sound and the O2 Arena, the police and Transport for London - is part of a 44 million pound ($58 million) investment announced this year by the mayor to make London safer for women and girls.

“(The charter) is about encouraging young people as bystanders to intervene if somebody is being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, a trade body representing the sector in Britain.

“It’s about equipping all of us to make the whole space in which we operate safer.”