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A selection of candidates for the four upcoming by-elections in Hackney have been quizzed on their policies concerning violence against women and girls in an online hustings chaired by domestic abuse charity Sistah Space.

The hustings was arranged by the Women’s Equality Party, which is not fielding any candidates in the local by-elections as it prioritises its bid to secure a representative on the Greater London Assembly (GLA).

The debates covered three of the four wards electing new councillors tomorrow as well as a session giving a platform to the GLA candidates for North East London.

Candidates were grilled by Sistah Space representative Rosanna Lewis on whether they were willing to make tackling violence against women and girls a political priority if elected.

Lewis said: “Most of the candidates were passionate about domestic abuse issues, but overall, the event confirmed Sistah Space’s views about the lack of knowledge and the need for training for all professionals including politicians, police and the criminal justice system. 

“There is clearly a long way to go as the majority of the parties did not have a domestic abuse policy or the candidates did not know anything about it. Most concerning was that there was no mention of African-heritage women and domestic abuse in any policy or literature from the parties.”

Lewis, who criticised Hackney Labour for not sending any of their candidates to the debates, grilled Conservative, Green, independent, Liberal Democrat and Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidates on their positions on institutional racism in light of the government’s controversial Newell report.

The nominees were also asked what they would do if elected to end gender-based violence in Hackney and restore women’s trust in the criminal justice system, what men’s role is in ending violence against women and girls, and what their views were of the widely reported dispute between Sistah Space and Hackney Council.

WEP deputy leader and Hackney resident Tabitha Morton said: “This was an important opportunity for all the parties and candidates contesting the elections to show they are serious about ending the pandemic of male violence. To show they had listened and had a plan for supporting women of African heritage.

“The hustings reinforced for me how important the Women’s Equality Party is, because none of the parties had a clear policy to end violence or a strategy to support women of African heritage.

“It’s positive there was a willingness to engage in the conversation from most candidates – Labour candidates didn’t attend any of the events. But we need much more than words; we need action. That’s why we are asking for people to vote Women’s Equality Party on the orange ballot, so we can make sure women’s equality is at the heart of every single decision taken in City Hall.”

You can watch the hustings here

You can find out more about Sistah Space’s petition to make specialist training mandatory for all police and other government agencies that support black women and girls affected by domestic abuse here

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