International Women's Day: Edinburgh MP Christine Jardine calls for action on abuse against women and girls
Bill presented by Edinburgh West MP would require online companies to report
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has tabled a Bill at Westminster calling for action to tackle online abuse against women and girls, and also minority groups. As International Women’s Day on March 8 was marked around the world, she presented her Online Abuse (Reporting) Bill in the UK Parliament which would require social media companies to publish reports detailing what they are doing to address abuse faced by women and girls. The reports would also cover the other protected characteristics in the Equality Act, including race, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Ms Jardine called the UK Government's lack of action on the issue "a dereliction of duty." She said: “Social media has made it much easier for people to discuss key issues, but too often debates become toxic, with women bearing the brunt of abusive comments. I know from my own experience that social media can turn quickly nasty and have faced waves of personal abuse throughout my time as an MP.
“We must also remember that women from an ethnic minority background, or women with a disability faced much more targeted abuse because of their identity. It is outrageous that the Conservative Government’s flagship Bill covering online harms does not mention women even once. This is a total dereliction of their duty to protect all women and girls. That is why I have brought this Bill to Parliament, so no woman is left abandoned to the wild west of online abuse any longer.”
In 2017, Ms Jardine described how she was subjected to a "mindless" and "vindictive attack" online on the day of her husband's funeral. She said her team was accused of breaking the pause in campaigning during the general election following the Manchester Arena terror attack when she was instead burying her husband. She said: "I was surprised – my husband's death had been widely reported, but the abuse was retweeted, explanations were demanded and there were more abusive comments.” She said she accepted that as a politician she put herself in the "firing line", but said "intimidation" and "abuse" should not be part of the job.