Two cheerless topics for Thursday: rape and racism

Two things today, neither nice. Rape and racism.

Yesterday the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police John Yates (“Yates of the Yard”!) called for all police forces to set up a specialist unit to investigate rape allegations.

If I didn’t work at Amnesty (which I do!) and Amnesty wasn’t a part of the End Violence Against Women Campaign (which it is!) … I might have thought that the police would already have done this. But no, they haven’t.  When you also remember that only a miserable 6% of reported rapes actually lead to a conviction – then the setting up of the specialised units is clearly way, way overdue.

Rape is one of this country’s biggest crime issues. Nicole Westmarland of Rape Crisis writes about this in the New Statesman today. Her point: solving rape needs to be seen as “serious”. It’s about getting the police itself to update its thinking on rape; to take the crime much more seriously (imagine the Life On Mars coppers really getting stuck in to a case of suspected rape…?). The detectives working on rape cases, says Westmarland, need to be granted the status and resources that the seriousness of rape investigations merit.

Amnesty has previously polled the public and discovered the depressing fact that a third of people think a “flirtatious” woman is partially responsible for her own rape. Depressing but true. The EVAW campaign is calling for a major new drive to tackle violence against women in the UK – support it here.

Meanwhile, have you ever been to Ukraine? I ask (rather transparently!) because Amnesty’s got a new report out today on the alarming rise in discrimination and racist and anti-Semitic attacks in the country.

After the (understandable) outcry over the fingerprinting of Roma in Italy (see Seamus Milne on this again today), it’s interesting to learn that the Ukrainian authorities have been doing exactly the same to entire villages of Roma people – women and children included. I’ve posted on this before. The policy is clearly discriminatory and should be stopped.

The Ukraine report also shows that last year six people were murdered in racist attacks and already another four have been killed this year (with at least 30 serious racist incidents). The most revolting case was probably the murder in April last year of a South Korean man called Jeong Kwon Kang. He was attacked in the street by a gang of four who were wearing spiked boots. The attackers jumped on Jeong Kwon Kang’s head “until his brains came out”.

Funnily enough I bought a pair of heavy, ex-army boots (probably Soviet-era!) from a street market in Kiev when I was there a few years ago. The memory was suddenly chilling as I read this new Amnesty report.

As Amnesty’s saying, it took the Stephen Lawrence case for the authorities in Britain to really wake up to racist violence in this country. Ukraine (like Russia and quite a few other European countries) still hasn’t done so.

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