Election candidate slams constant online sexism and says she’s been asked to sell ‘feet photos’

Helen Maher

A Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) candidate standing in the 2024 general election has slammed sexism and revealed she’s even been asked to sell pictures of her feet. 

Helen Maher exclusively told PinkNews that she was “apprehensive” about standing for election due to being aware of the abuse women in politics receive. 

“Women within my own party, and indeed across all parties, have suffered some of the most horrific abuse imaginable and I know from speaking to them the toll it has taken on their mental health.” 

SDLP is a social-democratic and Irish nationalist political party that aims to reconcile “the people of the island in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland”. 

‘Vile and hateful messages’

Despite being aware that she could potentially face sexism and misogyny, Maher said she didn’t expect the “sheer volume of abuse and harassment” that has come her way ahead of the 4 July election.

She added: “Nobody should be subjected to the vile and hateful messages that I have received throughout my time in politics, including being contacted with abuse every single day, being asked to sell pictures of my feet and if my campaign is being financed by OnlyFans”. 

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The Electoral Commission’s research at the 2024 May polls revealed a significant number of candidates experienced abuse, with the issue being particularly severe among women candidates. 

Maher acknowledged that male politicians also receive abuse online, but said there is “something extremely personal in the way that women are constantly targeted.” 

She urged that the abuse shouldn’t become accepted or the norm in order to ensure more women take up careers in politics. Despite the daily barrage of messages she tries not to take notice.

‘I will not be silenced by faceless trolls’

“I’m a strong person, but nobody would be immune to harassment on this scale. I am determined to be a strong voice for my community and I will not be silenced by faceless trolls online,” she said.

On LGBTQ+ rights, Maher, who considers herself “a strong ally to the LGBTQ+ community”, said there is a lot to do in order to attract more of the community into politics in order to “ensure that their views are represented. 

“If elected I would be a strong voice for the LGBTQ+ community in Parliament ensuring that their rights are respected,” she said. 

Speaking of her party she said the SDLP, which has passed a motion in the assembly to ban conversion therapy, would support an LGBTQ+ affirming relationship and education curriculum in school, as well as striving to increase PrEP funding (PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and is a crucial drug in HIV prevention care).

Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable Davy Beck told the BBC the police in Northern Ireland are “committed to supporting all candidates” and ensuring “they can campaign free from harassment and intimidation”.

For more UK general election 2024 coverage, click here.

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