Silence in the Commons as MP reads out names of women killed by men
The House of Commons listened in silence as an MP read out the names of some 130 women killed by men in the last year.
Labour’s Jess Phillips said she wanted to use the parliamentary debate marking International Women’s Day to honour her promise to share the names of those women who had died since the previous debate.
The MP for Birmingham Yardley added she could “feel the nervousness in the room” that she would not finish reading the list within the seven-minute time limit imposed on speeches, telling the Commons: “That is how we should feel every single minute of every single day – nervous that one of our constituents will wake up dead.”
It took Ms Phillips more than four minutes to read out the names and she thanked Karen Ingala Smith, of the Counting Dead Women project, for “tirelessly” recording the lives of the women affected.
Ms Phillips explained: “In the first International Women’s Day debate I ever attended I promised to read out the names of women killed by men since the last International Women’s Day – today I will honour that promise.
“Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting the families of these women, grateful that their loved ones were being remembered.
“I read these names not only to continue to highlight how male violence can terrorise ordinary women’s lives but to pay tribute to them and those who didn’t survive, and give them the opportunity to be heard because the reason these women are no longer with us is because they are hard to see, they are hard to hear and they are hard to believe.”
After reading out the names, Ms Phillips added: “I could feel the nervousness in the room that I wouldn’t finish reading the list within seven minutes and that is how we should feel every single minute of every single day – nervous that one of our constituents will wake up dead.
“The fear and tension that we felt in our bodies that I wouldn’t get through the list and I’d be made to sit down is what victims of domestic violence feel every minute that they walk around their houses, the second they wake up in the morning they feel frightened and that they’re going to have to walk on awkward eggshells all day long.
“These women need us in this place to hear their names and hear their stories so that we can change and make it so next year’s list might at least be a little bit shorter”.
Conservative Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) later highlighted how “unconscious bias and discrimination” are still holding women back.
She added: “Just last week a man told me that women don’t want to stand for election because they’d rather stay at home in the evening because men are the breadwinners and they’re the ones who like to work hard.
“I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me how I manage to be an MP and look after my children, as if this is some sort of incredible feat as opposed to what women do day in day out – juggling being a Member of Parliament or any demanding career.”