Sabina Nessa: London Murder Reignites Fears Over Women’s Safety

On the evening of 17 September, a 28-year-old primary school teacher named Sabina Nessa was murdered during her walk in Cator Park in Kidbrooke, London. The killing opened up the national movement on women’s safety in the country, and set off the discussion on violence against women. The conversation is brought to attention six months after the tragic death of Sarah Everard, who’s life was taken by a police officer. 

According to London’s Metropolitan Police Service, Sabina was meeting up with a friend at a local bar less than 10 minutes away from where she was living, and was attacked approximately at 8:30p.m. Police officials discovered her dead in Cator Park the next afternoon, about 24 hours later, near a closeby community center. On Thursday, a 38-year-old man was taken into custody and is being investigated for the murder. However, the police are currently considering more potential perpetrators and have released pictures of another man who has a link to the case. Joe Garrity, the detective inspector leading the investigation said that “[W]e know the community are rightly shocked by this murder – as are we – and we are using every resource available to us to find the individual responsible.”

The murder has led to an increased demand to tackle what is referred to as an “epidemic of violence towards women in the [United Kingdom],” said Emma Kay, co-founder of an app called WalkSafe. The app implements safety measures by focusing on protecting women in public settings. Kay argues that a significant number of women have been killed by men in the U.K. since Everard’s murder by a police officer stunned the nation. Everard was 33 years old when she died. Wayne Couzens, 48, pled guilty to her murder and is scheduled to receive his verdict on 29 September. 

A nonprofit organization called Counting Dead Women has set up a tool to track femicide within the U.K. Their data shows that at least 108 have been killed by men so far in 2021. Emma Kay stated that the country must implement a police and court system that keeps women protected and works actively to prioritize women’s safety, such as free transport systems or other ideas that will help prevent violent acts. “[E]nough is enough,” she told Al Jazeera. “U.K. women are calling for action. We must be able to walk home safely and live without violence in our own homes.” 

​​Despite overwhelming calls for action following the Everard tragedy, Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said it was “devastating” that little had been done to combat male violence against women. She claimed that the criminal justice system was too slow to respond to violence against women and that rape and domestic abuse cases were often ignored. She also believes that funding for support services should be increased. “[W]e must not risk viewing these murders as isolated incidents. Violence against women is so deeply normalized that women must constantly carry out personal safety work – assessing our surroundings, researching the safest route, carrying keys in our hands and sharing our location with friends,” Simon told Al Jazeera. “[W]e need an approach that addresses the root causes of male violence against women and the attitudes that minimize and tolerate abuse.”

The government has stated that women’s safety is significantly prioritized, and that they are taking measures to fight violence against women. Political leaders are specifically pointing to its Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls plan that was put into practice in July. However, actions speak louder than words, and more efforts must be made in order to protect women.