A petition calling for those who ‘promote rape or violence’ to be banned from standing for election has received over 60,000 signatures.
It comes after Ukip candidate Carl Benjamin was found to have written on Twitter in 2016 that he ‘wouldn’t even rape’ Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips.
While in a more recent video, posted online April 26, he said he might rape her ‘with enough pressure’, adding: ‘But let’s be honest, nobody’s got that much beer.’
He is standing in the EU elections in the South West region later this month. Fawcett Society CEO Sam Smethers, who set up the petition, told Metro.co.uk she was in ‘disbelief’ after Mr Benjamin remained on the ballot paper, stating that it ‘endorsed and legitimised his conduct’.
She has previously called for misogyny to be a hate crime. She said: ‘Have our politics sunk so low we are inviting people to vote for someone who would happily intimidate women? ‘Jess is high profile figure but she is entitled to dignity and not having to live in fear. It’s absolutely happening to hundreds of thousands of women across the country. ‘It’s now how we want our elected women to be treated. Research shows women are choosing not to stand as a result of abuse. They think, why would I put myself, or my family, through this?
‘It’s damaging our entire democratic system. We see it at hustings, public meetings, canvassing, online. The whole system is being corrupted and undermined. ‘There needs to be proper protection in place that will act as a deterrent. Political candidates have power and a platform and we must make sure they use it responsibly.’
Presently, the law fails to consider the abusive conduct of electoral candidates, and only disqualifies those with a criminal record, on grounds of bankruptcy or corrupt practices. The petition is seeking new legislation, as well as financial penalties for parties who do not deselect politicians who have promoted rape or violence.
Ms Smethers hopes the momentum of the campaign will pile pressure on the government and frontbenchers to act. She added: ‘Rape is an extremely serious crime. It’s all about power and control over women, intimidating and silencing them. Even if someone is using the threat to do that, it’s wrong. ‘But we cannot be naive and think there aren’t people who won’t be influenced and inspired into real-life, horrendous action. We all have a major responsibility to stop that from happening.’
Mrs Phillips previously told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire that she cried in the street after seeing Mr Benjamin’s comments and felt the ‘enormous weight of years and years of abuse’.
His words also prompted a Twitter ‘pile-on’ which left her inundated with threats from other social media users online. She called for the law to include misogyny as a hate crime, adding: ‘I’d been doing what all women do in these situations, putting a brave face on it and pretending I could cope. ‘But for four years this man has made a career out of harassing me. How can someone say they would rape me if forced and be a legitimate candidate in an election?’
It was launched five days ago Many of the thousands signing the Fawcett Society’s petition, which is aimed at Theresa May, cited the abuse Mrs Phillips’ received as their reason for signing. One wrote: ‘There is no place for violence of any kind in our democratic political environment. I’m doing this for Jess Phillips and every person who has been, or feels threatened.’ While another said: ‘I’m a rape survivor suffering g after 13 years the laws protect the criminal they need changing.. especially after the threat on Jess Phillips.’ Mr Benjamin is now being investigated by the police for his comments about Mrs Phillips. You can support the petition here.
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