LONDON – The prime minister of the United Kingdom warned on Tuesday that democracy was being threatened by abuse and intimidation online in a speech celebrating the centenary of most British women winning the right to vote.
In a speech in the northern English city of Manchester, Theresa May praised the “heroism” of the suffragettes, but warned that attacks online were putting many women off getting involved in politics.
“As we remember the heroic campaigners of the past, who fought to include the voices of all citizens in our public debate, we should consider the values and principles that guide our conduct today,” said May.
“Social media and digital communication, which in themselves can and should be forces for good in our democracy, are being exploited and abused, often anonymously,” she added.
The PM said there was “much to celebrate,” but she worried that public debate was “coarsening.”
Tuesday marked the 100-year anniversary since the UK parliament passed a law giving women over the age of 30 the right to vote, which at the time applied to more than eight million people.
“As the woman at the head of our country’s government, a century after my grandmothers were first given the right to vote, my mission is clear: to build that better future for all our people,” said May.
On Feb. 6, 1918, the parliament passed the Representation of the People Act, which granted millions of women the right to vote, following a long campaign on the part of the suffragettes that involved going on hunger strikes, arson attacks, and other forms of direct political action.
But it was not until 1928, 10 years later, when all women over the age of 21 won the right to vote in the UK.