Joan Smith

Known for her human rights activism and writing on subjects such as atheism and feminism, Joan Smith is a columnist, critic and novelist. An Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a regular contributor to BBC radio, she has written five detective novels, two of which have been filmed by the BBC.

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Turkey's prime minister addressing supporters last week

My chance to halt violence against women

I've spent a great deal of my career writing about violence against women. The first big story I covered was the series of murders committed by the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, and since then I've tackled rape, domestic abuse, prostitution and sex trafficking. So I didn't think twice when I was approached to become co-chair of the Mayor of London's Violence Against Women and Girls Panel. It brings together numerous organisations, including the Metropolitan Police, London councils and rape crisis centres, with the ambitious aim of eliminating abuse of women in one of the world's great cities. I'm not convinced we can get rid of violence completely, but anyone who wonders why such a body is necessary should look at the up-to-date statistics for London.

Education secretary Michael Gove

Don't force children on to porn sites, Mr Gove

The internet has done many wonderful things, but delivering porn to children isn't one of them. Everyone from women's groups to the Daily Mail is worried about this development, for somewhat different reasons. Now they've been joined by the Children's Commissioner, who has just published a review of the effects of pornography on teenagers and even younger children. You can get a flavour from the title, Basically… Porn is everywhere, which concludes that growing numbers of children are accessing pornographic material via smartphones and tablets.

Angelina Jolie went back to work just four days after her double mastectomy

Angelina Jolie's bravery has little to say to everywoman

Her experience is always going to be very different from a single mother being treated in an overstretched NHS hospital

August's child is behind the curve

You know those parents who can tell you exactly how old their children are? Three years and four months, they say proudly, and if you're like me you mentally round it up to three-and-half. Now it turns out they're right to be so precise, as a difference of a month or two can be measured later on in exam results.

Joan Smith: 'Until Hall suddenly changed his plea to guilty, he lied through his teeth about his assaults on girls'

Our disbelief is the sexual predator's great asset

The problem was not tolerance of abuse but disbelief of anyone who dared complain

Garment workers matter more than burgers

Eating a bit of horse won't kill you. You're unlikely to become even mildly ill from eating burgers laced with horsemeat, despite a media storm of massive proportions. Buying clothes manufactured in sweatshops in Bangladesh won't hurt you either, but it's a different story for the people who work in the industry. Yesterday, survivors were still being pulled from the ruins of an eight-storey building in the capital, Dhaka, which collapsed on Wednesday morning, killing hundreds. Rana Plaza housed four clothing firms which have in the past supplied Western chains, including, in Britain, Primark and Matalan.

Warning: Bad science can damage your health

In the intensive care ward of a hospital in Sierra Leone, I once heard a young man moaning in agony. His body was going into spasms and I was shocked to discover that he was suffering from tetanus. On the same trip to West Africa, I met more than a dozen men with hugely developed shoulders and withered legs – polio survivors, who propelled themselves on hand-driven wooden carts. It made me realise how lucky I am to live in a country where successful vaccination programmes have all but eradicated such diseases.

Top of the form: Margaret Thatcher ‘was like a matron in a boys’ school

Margaret Thatcher - the dogged climber who pulled the ladder up

Baroness Thatcher did little to help less privileged women, believing the battle for women's rights had been won. She was talking about herself

Sexual predator seeks needy young woman

Just over two years ago, nine men from Derby were jailed in three separate trials for preying on teenage girls. The victims were aged between 12 and 18 and had been groomed by a gang led by 28-year-old Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique, who was 27. Because all but one of the convicted men were Asian, the Derby trials were quickly subsumed in a controversial narrative about the role of ethnicity and culture in cases of systematic abuse of girls. But in the very same town, another man had been targeting vulnerable teenagers for decades.

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