LONDON, United Kingdom – Fitness chains The Gym Group and Everyone Active signed up to the Women’s Night Safety Charter this week, a Mayor of London initiative to make the capital’s venues and public spaces safer for women at night.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched the charter in 2018 in a bid to make the capital a city where all women feel confident and welcome at night, whether they’re travelling, working, exercising or going out.
It consists of seven pledges which any business or organisation that operates between the hours of 6pm and 6am can agree to in order to show their commitment to women’s safety.
The charter is part of the Mayor’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and London’s commitment to the UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces global initiative, and follows a number of high profile cases in 2021 that led to renewed focus on the issue of violence against women in the UK.
In 2020, 99% of adult offenders sentenced or cautioned for sexual offences in London were men, according to the Ministry of Justice. Across the country, 22.9% of women report having been a victim of sexual assault, compared with 4.4% of men.
The Mayor has been working with women’s rights activists behind campaign groups Gym Safe Ladies and The 97 March to further understand and tackle the issues and harassment faced by women accessing fitness facilities.
Gym Safe Ladies founder, personal trainer and powerlifter Emily Williams has also set up the #LetMeLift campaign, which collects women’s experiences of sexual harassment while exercising and has called for stronger action from leisure facilities on abuse.
A spokesperson for the #LetMeLift campaign, said: “Both Gym Safe Ladies and The 97 March are pleased to be working with the Mayor of London in implementing such vital changes to the fitness industry, and hope to see this replicated across many other sectors.”
The campaign groups are now pushing for more venues to sign up to the Mayor’s charter, with safe reporting procedures put in place in every gym in London and across the UK.
Improving Services For The 51%
The Mayor has also been working with ukactive and Sport England’s “This Girl Can” campaign to tackle harassment and further improve personal safety for women.
The group’s combined research, based on consultations with more than 1,000 women and girls, led to the publication in November of a practical guide – How to improve your services for women and girls: As told by the 51%.
The document includes key recommendations to attract more women and girls to use fitness and leisure facilities, as well as tangible solutions to make women feel safer when visiting these sites.
“It is vital that women feel confident and safe using their local gym or leisure centre at any hour so that they can live active lives,” said Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive.
“Our sector alone cannot solve deep-seated societal issues around behaviour and female safety but we must accept our responsibilities as these important issues do not disappear when our customers cross the threshold of our sites – we have a collective responsibility.”
Currently more than 700 venues and organisations have signed up to the Mayor’s charter, including Everyone Active, which runs 14 gyms in London. The Gym Group, which runs 60 gyms across the capital, is the first 24-hour fitness operator to sign.
“The Gym Group is proud to be the first fitness chain to sign the charter. We want to drive the conversation within our sector on these issues, in order to tackle them collectively,” said Ann-marie Murphy, Chief Operating Officer for The Gym Group.
“It’s critically important to us that women feel safe when they visit our gyms. Our gyms are open 24/7 and we want all of our members to feel safe at any time of the day or night. We have a zero-tolerance policy on harassment.”
This drive to make London safer comes as the London Mayor announced additional funding of £108K on top of £60m already invested in tackling violence against women and girls.
Over three quarters of businesses in London have already taken steps to design spaces that are safer for women at night and almost two thirds have implemented staff training to improve responses to reports of sexual harassment, the Mayor’s office reported.
“Not about women changing their behaviour”
The Mayor this week also announced he is launching a new campaign which will focus on addressing the attitudes and behaviours of men, in order to tackle misogyny and violence towards women and girls.
The campaign will bring together partners from across the sporting world, high-profile male influencers and include videos online and posters around the city reminding men of their responsibility to challenge unacceptable attitudes and behaviour amongst their peers.
“The Charter and the action we are taking from City Hall is not about women changing their behaviour in order to feel and be safe – it is about challenging and changing the behaviour of those perpetrating abuse and ensuring London is safe at all times of day and night for women,” the Mayor said.
Adding: “We’ve all got to play our part and we must all face up to the issue of violence against women and girls. I am determined to make London a place where women feel confident and welcome at night… and I urge more gyms to sign up to our Charter.”