Eighteen women serving in the British Parliament that have said they are not seeking reelection have said their decision to resign is largely due to threats and abuse they have received.
The women, who are not seeking reelection in the upcoming Dec. 12 general election, issued a handful of strong statements tying the decision to a culture of intimidation that has been ignited throughout the tense Brexit negotiation standoffs, according to The New York Times.
Heidi Allen, a member of the Conservative party, said the abuse has become “utterly dehumanizing,” in a letter to constituents announcing she will not stand for reelection.
“I am exhausted by the invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation that has become commonplace. Nobody in any job should have to put up with threats, aggressive emails, being shouted at in the street, sworn at on social media, nor have to install panic alarms at home,” Allen wrote.
The growing trend has women’s rights activists worried that it could deter other women from entering politics, according to the Times.
Caroline Spelman, a 22-year member of the Conservative party, issued a similar statement as Allen in an opinion column in The Times of London.
“Sexually charged rhetoric has been prevalent in the online abuse of female MPs, with threats to rape us and referring to us by our genitalia,” she reportedly wrote. “It is therefore not surprising that so many good female colleagues have decided to stand down at this election.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed the threats of violence as “humbug” during a parliamentary debate in September, a remark that was heavily criticized by other lawmakers, according to the Times.
The Dec. 12 general election comes as U.K. leaders continue to fail to agree on a deal to leave the European Union.
Johnson had vowed to reach a Brexit deal by the end of October. He agreed to drop his stance on the country leaving by Oct. 30 in exchange for the December general election.
Johnson’s goal is to regain a ruling majority in Parliament to pass his latest Brexit deal.
If the minority Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn is able to gain the majority, another national referendum on whether the country should leave the EU may be held.