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The freedom to be a woman

Recipient profile picture Victoria Atkins
8 November
Dear Victoria Atkins,
If you allow me, I want to ask you a question that has been wandering in my head for several days: what is the first thing you would do if you lived in a world without men? For my part, I took the greatest pleasure in imagining myself being able to walk peacefully in a park in the middle of the night, with my headphones playing delicate melodies - swept away by the subtle breeze of the wind. And what a night if I may say so! A night where I was able to embrace freedom for the first time in my life as a young woman. The freedom to walk in absolute tranquility - without the need to glance every second at the reflection of my phone to discern if someone is following me, without the necessity to share my localisation with loved ones, without the obligation to interweave keys between my fingers or question the clothes I am wearing…. What a delightful feeling to imagine freedom: the liberty to exist without having a sword of Damocles weighing over my head. Madam, I am not addressing you this letter today to eradicate this world from the existence of men, naturally. The earth would become quite tedious! No, my few words aim to shed light on an issue that is currently faced by women in the United Kingdom: insecurity. What a regrettable assessment to imagine that today, more than four-fifth or 86% of young women have been subjected to sexual harassment (UN Women UK). That, as of the year ended in March 2020, over 4.9 million women admitted to having been victims of sexual assault - 1.4 million of which have been raped or put through attempted rape (Office for National Statistics). And that, in that same year, 207 women have been killed. I take the liberty to ask you, how many Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Terri Harris, Phyllis Nelson or Sukhjeet Uppal will it take to realise that we are facing an essential problem? Madam, the main problem is that the system does not take the side of the victim. That the latter, instead of mourning the event that has been imposed on her, must bear the heavy burden of blame, embarrassment, and humiliation. But these feelings are nothing compared to helplessness. Helplessness inasmuch as victims consider that no one will believe them, that filing a complaint will not change anything, or that the crime is not serious enough to report it to the authorities. Helplessness, because of the inaction of bystanders, the police, the justice, and the system in general. In numbers, the Crime Survey for England and Wales notes that last year, of the 59.000 rapes reported to the police, only 1.439 or 1.6% were the subject of a conviction. What more needs to be said? Madam, if the problem appears to be complicated, the solutions are much simpler. One solution that seems conspicuous is: educate. Educate about consent and respect from an early age. Educate bystanders and witnesses to act or support victims so as not to include these behaviours in the vocabulary of normality. And educate the police, so that these actions are finally qualified as unacceptable. I know that much has already been done to protect women and ensure their safety. However, there will still be a lot to do as long as every woman in our country is afraid to go out on the streets for the sole reason that she is a woman. I would be very interested in hearing from you with regards to your views on this matter and what you might be able to do about it. In the meantime, thank you very much for your attention. Yours sincerely, Dounia Zavarzine

Dounia Zavarzine

Author profile picture Dounia Zavarzine

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