As women all over the world from a cross-section of industries are speaking out against sexual assault, Westminster has fallen under the microscope. An internal mediation service will be established to process the issues raised, as ripples of unrest make their way through the Commons.
The latest prominent male politician to be brought under scrutiny is Michael Fallon - the defence secretary has since resigned. Andrea Leadson, his fellow cabinet member, was subject to lewd comments in a meeting, and unwanted physical contact. It is believed that the resignation is in part a result of this. He stepped down with the statement that he had “fallen short” of his role.
Fallon’s conduct is far from isolated - there are allegations from within both the major political parties of long-standing sexual misconduct, which appear to have been kept under wraps, or otherwise not dealt with effectively.
The image of Westminster as a workplace of sexual harassment has acquired more weight in recent days, following the Harvey Weinstein scandal in America. As prominent actresses spoke out about Weinstein’s inappropriate conduct, women around the world took to Twitter in solidarity, using the hashtag #MeToo to speak out about their own experiences with sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. The issue has also affected men - it was revealed that Kevin Spacey made unwanted advances on a number of male collegues, including - at one point - an underage boy. Police are investigating these allegations. Netflix has also cut ties with Spacey, and announced that it will not be renewing the series in which he stars, House of Cards.
From instances such as these, the systemic nature of sexual assault within workplaces has been brought to light, and their presence within Westminster can no longer be ignored.
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