United Kingdom Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt, has announced that the British government plans to bring forward legislation that would grant anonymity to those accused of rape until they are charged. The government intends on bringing the legislation forward “as soon as possible,” bypassing formal consultation, according to the Telegraph.
The issue has the United Kingdom’s House of Commons divided on gender lines rather than party lines, according to BBC News. While male members of parliament (MP) from all parties spoke in support of the plan, female MPs spoke against the legislation, and described it as “deeply disturbing,” reported the Telegraph.
Male MPs have been quoted as supporting the legislation because of the consequences a false accusation can have on one’s reputation. Keith Vaz, Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said “whole lives can be destroyed” by false accusations, according to the Telegraph.
Female MP’s oppose the legislation as they say that it will prevent women from making allegations about rape. Conservative MP Louise Bagshawe of Corby said that by “singling out rape in this way ministers are sending a negative signal about women and those who accuse men of rape,” reported the Telegraph. Anna Sourby, a Tory MP and former criminal barrister, also said that when the accused’s name was made public, other victims often came forward.
Shadow minister for women and equalities Yvette Cooper spoke against the legislation, saying, “Again the Government’s failed to give any reason why rape should be treated differently to any other crime – and chose, instead, to send out the very strong signal that women are not to be believed,” according to the Telegraph.
Those accused of other crimes, including murder, are not granted anonymity prior to conviction.