Sexist police and austerity exposed by Bradford stabbing

Cas Middlemas, Leeds and West Yorkshire Socialist Party

On 6 April, Kulsuma Akter was attacked and killed while walking down the street in Bradford with her baby. Her husband has since been charged with murder. In November 2023, he was charged and arrested with assault and threatening to kill Kulsuma, but released on conditional bail despite objections, and told not to contact her. Again, ten days before she was killed, Kulsuma received death threats, which she reported to West Yorkshire Police.

Nine other women in West Yorkshire have been killed by someone the police knew to be a threat to them since 2019. Victims’ families have criticised the police force for failings in these cases.

These tragedies are a product of the inability of the police to keep women safe – but also of wider issues, including how women can escape danger, and the sexist reality of capitalism.

Council failings

In Bradford, between 2010 and 2017, the council cut 55% of its spending on domestic violence refuges. During one year in that period, 287 people were turned away from domestic violence shelters in Bradford due to overcrowding.

The past 14 years of Tory austerity have hit local councils hard, and Labour-led councils have not fought for the resources needed to maintain life-saving services. It is of no surprise that non-statutory services like domestic violence services have been cut.

Bradford Labour council, instead of fighting, is set to cut 100 council workers’ jobs, meanwhile the Chief Executive earns £190,000 a year.

Domestic violence services must be fully publicly funded and brought under democratic workers’ control, and the cuts over the last decade reversed.

Police part of sexist society

Spending on the police has also been cut, but there is a wider problem of institutional incompetence and disregard for women’s safety that cannot just be blamed on austerity. The failings of the Met Police over a number of years, including the murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer, show that it’s not just a few bad apples or forces – the police system as a whole is institutionally sexist.

Pro-capitalist politicians and police tops ultimately reflect and defend not our interests but the capitalist profit system, a system which is based on exploitation and inequalities of power, wealth, gender and race. A key demand is therefore for democratic working-class community control of the police. But also needed is the building of mass working-class organisations and movements with a programme for the socialist transformation of society.

We need local councils that are funded based on the real needs of that area and we need local councillors who are unafraid to challenge cuts, to stand up for the rights and safety of women, and to fight for the resources we all need. This is why the Socialist Party is standing candidates under the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) umbrella at the upcoming local government elections. Our current system is incompatible with the safety and liberation of women, which is why we must fight for socialist change.