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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kenwood (Local Democracy Reporter)

Northern Ireland to have its first Women’s Night Safety Charter

Woman wearing a black hat at night time in Street scene with street lights.

Northern Ireland is to have a Women’s Night Safety Charter.


At a recent meeting of Belfast City Council, a report revealed that Hospitality Ulster, in association with White Ribbon, is planning to roll out the Women’s Night Safety Charter as part of a safer socialising initiative across Northern Ireland.


It is identical to the London Mayor’s charter, and invites all organisations and hospitality businesses that operate at night to sign up to seven pledges.



All are being asked to nominate a champion who actively promotes women’s night safety, demonstrate to staff and customers they take women’s safety at night seriously, for example through a communications campaign, and all are being asked advise women what to do if they experience harassment when working, going out or travelling.


They are also being asked to encourage reporting by victims and bystanders through campaigns, train staff to ensure that all women who report are believed, train staff to ensure that all reports are recorded and responded to, and design public spaces and workplaces to make them safer for women at night.



White Ribbon is a global campaign set up in 1991 to end male violence against women and girls. White Ribbon NI was launched in Northern Ireland in November 2021. They will support the charter with their Listen, Learn, Lead training.


The move follows reports in February that 300 venues across Northern Ireland had signed up for the PSNI’s ‘Ask for Angela’ scheme which was launched in December. This was put in place so anyone who is feeling unsafe, vulnerable or threatened can discreetly seek help by approaching venue staff and asking them for ‘Angela’.


An investigation by UN Women found that 97% of women aged 18-24 across the world had been sexually harassed.



The new Northern Ireland charter training document states:


“Violence against women and girls starts with ideas, words, and thoughts long before it becomes action. If we are to create a society where women are safe, we must challenge the attitudes and beliefs which can lead to harassment and abuse on nights out being normalised and minimised.


“Alcohol is not the root cause of sexual violence. It is, however, often wrongly used as an excuse for these crimes. In drink spiking incidents (where alcohol or drugs are added to someone’s drink without their knowledge) the onus is all too often put onto the victim to protect themselves, for example by covering their drink with their hand.


“However, there are now reports of a new form of spiking which involves the victim being injected in some way without their consent. It has never been more important to take a stance against these crimes, and to continue in our efforts to make venues safe and enjoyable for everyone.



“We envision a Northern Ireland in which women and girls live free from violence and the threat of it. This means women and girls taking up space and living their lives to their full potential.


“It means women heading out for the night knowing they are going to have a great time and get home safe. Signing up to the Women’s Night Safety Charter NI and making the seven pledges is an important first step to make this vision a reality.”


Councillors at the recent Belfast City Council Licensing Committee learned about the initiative, after a report was finally published on a five year old motion. In December 2018 the council passed an Alliance proposal to meet with universities, the hospitality sector and the PSNI to explore industry led initiatives to tackle sexual harassment within the nighttime economy.



The report states: “Due to resource constraints in the service, work on this did not commence until January 2020. Meetings were then held with (councillors) QUB and Hospitality Ulster to explore what initiatives were in progress. With the onset of the pandemic and hospitality venues closed, no further progress was possible in 2020.


“Thereafter, whilst hospitality was no longer under the same restrictions because of covid the cost-of-living crisis was, and still is, having a significant impact on the sector and this led to further delays in progressing the motion. More recently, meetings have taken place with Hospitality Ulster, QUB and the PSNI to explore initiatives aimed at creating a safer and more inclusive night-time economy.”


Referring to the new charter for women, the report states:


“As part of this initiative, Hospitality Ulster plans to establish a steering group with senior management representation from key stakeholder organisations including the Executive Office, the PSNI, local authorities, Translink, Tourism NI, etc. The steering group would meet two or three times a year to review the effectiveness of current initiatives, review emerging issues and if needed develop new initiatives to address Women’s Safety at night.


“But to avoid duplication, Hospitality Ulster are also exploring if there is an existing group that could fulfil this role. Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster will be available to provide members with further background information on the industry led initiatives aimed at tackling sexual harassment within our night-time economy.”

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