An NHS Trust has been criticised after a post on social media said female staff were given rape alarms to mark International Women’s Day (IWD).
Employees at Southend University Hospital, Southend-on-Sea, were said to be upset and angry at the move to offer the alarms as part of IWD celebrations in the staff canteen on Wednesday.
The day, celebrated on March 8 each year, aims to highlight “the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women” and is a “call to action for accelerating women’s equality,” according to the IWD official website.
Critics said it was inappropriate to mark a day about female empowerment with the a device related to sexual violence.
Jamie Klingler, activist and co-founder of Reclaim These Streets (RTS), said: “This is the worst way to ‘celebrate’ IWD. Equality isn’t having to pull a siren or be able to tackle an attacker.”
RTS is a social justice organisation that successfully launched a judicial review against the Metropolitan Police Service, claiming that their human rights to freedom of speech and assembly had been breached in connection with their attempt to organise a vigil in Clapham Common, London, for murdered Sarah Everard.
It comes after the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for North Wales apologised for mistakenly advertising “self-defence and self-confidence sessions” for women and girls to mark IWD in a now-amended press release.
The press release, seen by The Telegraph, included a comment from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin which said: “I’m pleased, with today being International Women’s Day, that we are putting measures in place to keep women safe in Holyhead and elsewhere across the region.”
Ms Klingler said women being taught how to defend themselves, rather than ending male violence, “makes it our fault”.
She added: “Violence is delivered in many ways; ignoring a mother who was begging police to look for her missing daughter is another example… a hospital giving rape alarms to their employees in the canteen to celebrate IWD [is another].”
A spokesperson for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the hospital, said: “As part of our health and wellbeing offer to our staff, personal protection alarms are regularly made available to all members of staff who want one.”
A spokesperson for North Wales’ OPCC said: ““We apologise for any perceived link between International Women’s Day and these self-defence classes, which took place some weeks ago. Tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence is a key priority for us all and it is important that perpetrators are brought to justice.
“We commission a range of services that both offer support and advice to victims, and work to reduce incidents in the first place. While we know that one measure alone will not solve this issue, we hope that different measures taken as a whole will help ensure women and girls are supported and protected. Any connection between these classes and International Women’s Day – which we appreciate is a date to empower and celebrate women – was unintentional and regretted.”