Liz Truss has won the leadership race to be elected the UK’s Prime Minister after beating Rishi Sunak. She is only the third woman to ever hold the post, following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher in 1975 and Theresa May in 2016. While it is important for young women and girls to see themselves represented in politics, the power of representation only extends so far; a state that hurts women is still hurting women, no matter who’s in charge.
Truss succeeds Boris Johnson, who has left a wreckage of issues facing women and girls, with rape prosecutions at their lowest ever, the cost of childcare bankrupting parents, and leaving women of colour, disabled, LGBTQIA+ and working-class women to bear the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis.
So, will Liz Truss’s appointment actually make the UK a safer place for women?
Blink, and you may have missed it, but Truss has actually been Minister for Women and Equalities since 2019. Few could tell you what she’s actually done for women in this time, and in 2021, even the Women and Equalities Committee accused her of treating this role as a “side hustle.” As Foreign Sec, she also oversaw a huge cut to overseas aid as Foreign Secretary which was widely considered to have an unequal impact on women worldwide.
Violence against women and girls
Refuge has urged Liz Truss to prioritise tackling violence against women and girls, with the charity’s CEO, Ruth Davison releasing the following statement:
“Refuge looks forward to working with the new Prime Minister to address violence against women and girls. There are quick and easy things that can be done which could make a real difference. The first step is ensuring the Online Safety Bill returns to Parliament. This has the potential to address online misogyny and abuse.
Our research shows that one in three UK women have experienced abuse via social media, and for too long, digital platforms have been allowed to mark their own homework, resulting in a failure to properly regulate themselves. Refuge is also concerned about the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on survivors of domestic abuse and we need the new Prime Minister to act now by creating an emergency fund for domestic abuse survivors, to ensure women aren’t forced to stay with an abuser because they are unable to afford to leave.”
Regarding women’s work and safety, Truss pledged to introduce a National Domestic Abuse Register, which would help to break the cycle of repeat offending by abusive men. She has also said she will address the long waiting times for rape court cases, as well as equipping courts to use pre-recorded video:
Over the last two years, our nation has been shocked by a number of high-profile murders of women.
“Violence against women and girls doesn’t have to be inevitable. Women should be able to walk the streets without fear of harm and perpetrators must expect to be punished.
“Through increased police training, new offences, faster processes for rape victims and our Domestic Abuse Register, we will ensure victims are protected, and crimes are prevented in the first place.”
Another key issue women face in the UK is the right to abortion. Earlier this year, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service called out Truss for ignoring their demands to publicly denounce the overruling of Roe v. Wade in the USA. BPAS said that both Truss and rival candidate Rishi demonstrated a “pattern of abstention when it comes to the issue of abortion.”