Prime Minister’s Questions today struck a sombre tone as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Johnson to tackle the ““epidemic of violence against women and girls”.
In light of the disappearance of Sarah Everard, Sir Keir called for a “watershed moment” such as those seen with the murders of Stephen Lawrence and James Bulger.
“Now the awful events of the last week have lifted a veil on the epidemic of violence against women and girls,” he said.
“This must also be a watershed moment to change how we as a society treat women and girls and how we prevent and end sexual violence and harassment.”
Mr Johnson said the reaction to 33-year-old Miss Everard’s disappearance had been “wholly justified and understandable.”
He said the Government is doing “everything that we can” to make the streets safer for women.
And in response to Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister Charlotte Nichols, said “casual everyday sexism” needs to be on top of the agenda.
Mr Johnson said: “We can do all the things that we’ve talked about, two men arguing over the despatch box, we can bring in more laws, tougher sentences which I hope she will support, we can support independent domestic violence and sexual violence advisers, all that kind of thing.
“But we have to address the fundamental issue of the casual everyday sexism and apathy that fails to address the concerns of women – that is the underlying issue.”
He added that politicians must work together for “cultural and social change”.
He told MPs: “Unless and until we have a change in our culture that acknowledges and understands that women currently do not feel they are being heard we will not fix this problem.
“And that is what we must do. We need a cultural and social change in attitudes to redress the balance and that is what I believe all politicians must now work together to achieve.”
Sir Keir Starmer said: “What is needed is legal protection and that is why we have called for a specific new law on street harassment and also for toughening the law on stalking – both I think are absolutely vital if we are going to make meaningful change in the everyday experiences of women and girls.
“So can the Prime Minister commit to take both of these measures forward?”
The Prime Minister said the Government is “always happy to look at new proposals”, adding: “What we are already doing is introducing tougher sanctions on stalkers – that has already been brought in – and we are bringing in new measures to make the streets safer. Of course that is the right thing to do.”