Feminist town planning would work 'hand-in-hand with misogyny report'

An initiative putting women at the heart of town planning would work well alongside a report hoping to criminalise aggravations involving misogyny, a spokesperson for Scotland’s feminist policy and advocacy organisation has said.

Eilidh Dickson, policy manager for Engender and a working group member of the misogyny report, said she was “really keen” to see feminist town planning being introduced as the Scottish Government welcomed “radical” reforms to combat misogyny.

This week, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC unveiled Misogyny – A Human Rights Issue, calling for the creation of a Misogyny and Criminal Justice Scotland Act to create a new statutory aggravation of misogyny.

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The report also calls for new offences of public misogynistic harassment and issuing threats of rape, sexual assault or disfigurement of women and girls to be introduced.

Eilidh Dickson, from Engender said she was "really keen" to see feminist town planning following the publication of the Misogyny report.Eilidh Dickson, from Engender said she was "really keen" to see feminist town planning following the publication of the Misogyny report.
Eilidh Dickson, from Engender said she was "really keen" to see feminist town planning following the publication of the Misogyny report.

The Misogyny Report Working Group’s research from 930 respondents found the majority – 63.5 per cent – of misogynistic behaviours (including groping, shouting and cat-calling) took place on the streets, followed by online (59.9 per cent).

To combat misogynistic behaviour, a national feminist town planning strategy could be applied across the whole of Scotland, Ms Dickson suggested.

Feminist town planning centres around the idea that towns, cities and urban spaces are generally designed by men, for men, with a lack of consideration for the needs of women, non-binary and genderfluid people.

Ms Dickson voiced concerns over the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework – the draft version of which was published in November – not mentioning women’s safety.

She said: "This feels like such a missed opportunity given all of the conversations that have happened around Sarah Everard.

"We’ve got to disrupt a really ingrained culture which designates the public space as being for men and male activities.

"It’s got to be rooted in the concept of twenty minute neighbourhoods: whose twenty minutes do we care about? Is it an able bodied white man or is it a woman with caring responsibilities and using a mobility aid?

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"We’ve got to think about the different uses of public space.”

Research from Young Women Lead in their report Glasgow: A Feminist City? last year showed around 67 per cent of women and non-binary people often feel unsafe or uncomfortable on buses in Glasgow and the majority of the 600 respondents felt unsafe in parks at night.

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When asked to expand on their answers, the most common response was that “being a woman” impacted their safety onboard and around public transport.

The report recommends increasing lighting at bus stops and in parks and tackling overgrown shrubbery which could give attackers a place to hide in public spaces.

It also recommends one simple ticket for all modes of public transport to remove any barriers to getting 'from A to B' as well as increased security at night in the form of park rangers.

Glasgow City Council has since said their urban planning policies seek to ensure area and street designs are “safe and suitable for women”.

Yet, when conducting a survey around women’s safety, Wise Women Glasgow said they still faced “structural problems” in finding women-centred spaces to hang posters and leaflets in the city.

"There were spaces for men to meet such as pubs and bet shops but no spaces for women. Community centres and libraries weren’t available,” said a Wise Women spokeswoman.

Wise Women said they would actively encourage a feminist town planning approach at a local authority level and at a national level.

"The structure of a city has to give women the reassurance that they are welcome here, they are wanted here and they have freedom here.

"Working class women also need to be involved in the decision-making of this process and not just be shrugged off as a consideration as it’s their built environments being impacted,” said the spokeswoman.

In February, Scotland's transport minister Jenny Gilruth gave a statement on women’s safety and the future of Scotland's railways after they become nationalised in April.

Women-only train carriages have been considered to tackle issue around women’s safety. However, Wise Women Glasgow believe this measure would limit women’s mobility when “solutions should be centred around letting women move more freely”.

Ms Dickson said: "One of the things that we’ve been calling for for the last couple of years is doing what Toronto did – and I know the young women’s project was influenced by this as well – by handing over power to women to talk about their public spaces through physical space safety audits.

"These are well recognised tool-kits and we could develop something here that’s fit for purpose that’s really about how do we make spaces work equally for women and men.

"I don’t think there are easy solutions but I think women have solutions and women know how they want their spaces to work for them so feminist town planning should be part and parcel of this."

Other councils across Scotland including Edinburgh, Inverclyde, South Lanarkshire, East Renfreshire and Falkirk do not have a specific “feminist town planning” initiatives set up, however, they said they consider women’s safety in their current strategies.

Hannah Bardell, an MP for West Lothian said she would be “open to initiatives” such as the feminist town planning project in West Lothian and beyond.

She added: “Your built environment is so important and considering women and girls and parents is incredibly important.

"I would 100 per cent endorse that and would love to see the detail of that and see other councils endorse that as well.”

The Scottish Government has said it takes the safety of women “extremely seriously” and that improving equality and discrimination across Scotland is a “high level outcome” for the National Planning Framework 4.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have proposed new national planning policy embedding human rights and equality in decision-making to deliver better places for everyone.

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“Through the Scottish Government’s proposed policy on design and place, development proposals should provide safe, pleasant and welcoming natural and built spaces for all.”

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