11 March 2021 | OPINION

I don’t want to comment specifically about the Sarah Everard case as I don’t know the facts of it, but this case has made me think more generally about gender-based violence and attitudes towards women.

During my time as an undergrad at university, I went out socially with a girl one night. It was just as friends; nothing significant happened. But I mention it because earlier that day, I rang a classmate to see if he could explain some course readings to me. This individual knew I was going out later that evening and he proceeded to give me an unsolicited piece of advice, telling me if I wanted to get into bed with this girl, I should get her drunk.

Naturally, this rang alarm bells as, of course, someone who is drunk cannot properly consent. I explained that to this individual, who I no longer interact with, and told him to sort himself out. I considered reporting this exchange, but as I had no proof it took place, I figured this would be a futile exercise. I’ve occasionally told others of this exchange and tried a couple of times to make sure the individual is fully aware of how abhorrent his suggestion was, I would like to be able to do more, but as I said this conversation cannot be proven to have taken place, so it’s literally a case of my word against his.

But what alarmed me most was the prevailing attitude. It was as though the girl’s rights and wishes did not matter and I got the feeling this individual was surprised at my objection. A lot of people discussing these issues have noted that it’s not all men, but one man is one man too many.

Those who have discussed politics with me would know I’m a classical liberal / pragmatic libertarian. Individual rights are at the heart of what I believe. Protection from physical harm is the most important of these rights. Only in self-defence or defence of a third-party should anyone be allowed to violate another individual’s right to physical security. In these cases, violence is not really a choice anymore; it is the only way to protect yourself or others. In all other situations, the right to physical security should not be infringed. You can have any right you can think of, but if someone could credibly threaten to harm you for exercising it, you are probably not going to use it, so it becomes worthless.

I’ve known a lot of fellow males over the years who have expressed an entitled view towards women and from conversations with other males my age, I am aware I am not unique in this regard and there are several men like that in the world. I think most of them will have grown out of it before they do anything wrong, but some men don’t, and that’s a problem.

The headline of this article comes from a powerful response from actor Sir Patrick Stewart to a question about domestic violence.

Subscribing to small and limited government ideals, I don’t believe massive amounts of control over the school curriculum should be concentrated in central government, save for examination rules and an increased level of control over core subjects, with most of the decisions being made by the schools themselves and local government. However, the promotion of these basic rights and liberties should also be included in what is centrally espoused. Basic human rights, such as the right to physical protection, are owed to people on the basis of their membership of the human race and these should be made clear and protected.

You should have the right to do whatever you want, provided you are not infringing on the basic rights and freedoms of others. People might have a different opinion on what you’re doing and they are entitled to that, but they should not be allowed to compel you to agree. The idea that women should have to adapt their behaviour to protect themselves from harm is one I cannot subscribe to.

Wearing more conservative clothes is a common suggestion, but wearing less conservative clothing does not impede anyone else’s freedoms. Those who use that sort of rhetoric to excuse or defend violence, really have to ask themselves, is anyone really being harmed? Does the attacker still have the choice to not use harm in response and be unaffected in their day-to-day life? Should we not hold people accountable for the individual choices they make?

This really should not be up for debate.

Gursimran Hans has a Master's degree in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy from City, University of London, with an undergraduate degree in Journalism with Study Abroad from City and Hong Kong Baptist University. He was previously on the overnight news team at The Daily Express and a member of the London Borough of Redbridge’s Fairness Commission.


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