Public sector union UNISON has condemned the vile abuse directed at a young female member who is standing in the General Election. Emily Owen is standing for the Labour Party in Aberconwy and has suffered appalling online sexual harassment since announcing her candidacy. Twenty-two year old Emily has received a series of degrading comments on her Facebook campaign page including questions about stripping, her bra size and whether she is willing to perform sexual favours to secure votes.
Margaret Thomas, UNISON regional secretary said,
“Emily cares passionately about serving her community and putting yourself forward for election should be commended. Instead, she has been subject to disgusting abuse for being young and a woman. Online sexist abuse of ordinary women and girls is a daily occurrence and it is not acceptable under any circumstances. These people have no right whatsoever to demean a woman who wants to be a voice for local people. This wouldn’t happen if she was a man. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to insult. UNISON will support Emily in reporting the serious abuse to the police and we’d encourage all women experiencing cyber-abuse to do the same. We must stand up to these bullies together.”
“I’m independent-minded and I’ve got something to say about politics. I’m active in my community and in support of refugees. Yet because of my gender and age some people think it’s ok to send me pornographic texts and repulsive online messages. Women should be able to stand for Parliament and be judged on their policies, not their looks.”
UNISON criticised some media coverage of the case as hypocritical and said it demonstrated the double standards facing women in public life. The online article of one popular news organisation posed as serious reporting whilst revelling in the salacious detail of the story and used photographs designed to undermine Emily as a serious candidate.
UNISON Cymru/Wales is a predominantly female trade union and it has pioneered training courses to raise awareness of online abuse of women and girls. The trade union aims to safeguard women against cyber-bullying, to advise them where they might find support and empower women experiencing abuse to report it.