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Ending Violence Against Women

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

The Petition of the Women’s Institute ending violence against women campaign,

Declares that 3 million women across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, stalking, sexual exploitation, trafficking or another form of violence each year; the Women’s Institute is concerned that the Government is not doing enough to prevent violence against women occurring; there seems to be a mentality that abuse of women and girls is a fact of life. The petitioners believe that violence against women is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality. In 1995 the UK adopted the platform for Action in Beijing at the 4th World Conference on Women to address the goals of inequality, development and peace for all women around the world. There were twelve critical areas of concern where strategic action was needed; one of these was violence against women.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to stand by the UK’s commitment to afford women and girls their basic human rights to live free from violence and its threat by taking steps to eliminate violence against women.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Selous, Official Report, 7 October 2008; Vol. 480, c. 248.]


Observations from the Minister for Women and Equality:

The Government is committed to addressing violence against women, in all its forms, and whatever circumstances. Violence against women perpetuates inequality and this Government does not accept that it should ever be viewed as a “fact of life”.

In recent years this Government has done a great deal to step up action to tackle violence against women, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice through our inter-linked action plans on domestic violence, sexual violence and assault and, human trafficking. This is in addition to legislation introduced by this Government, such as the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, which has improved both the way in which the criminal justice system deals with these crimes and victims’ access to justice.

Tackling violence against women is one of the three priorities for the Ministers for Women. In July, the Government Equalities Office published Women’s Changing Lives setting out progress against these priorities, including:

A £1 million cross-Government special fund to support rape crisis centres, helping them to stay open and delivering support to victims;

Improved support and access to justice for victims of domestic violence through the Specialist Domestic Violence Courts programme and Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences ensuring more successful prosecutions and fewer repeat incidences of domestic violence;

Introduction and implementation of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 which will give courts the power to issue Forced Marriage Protection Orders to prevent someone from forcing another person into marriage;

A Tackling Demand Review, led by the Home Office, to look at what more could be done to tackle the demand side of prostitution in order to protect those involved from sexual exploitation;

A UK-wide anti-trafficking policing operation, Operation Pentameter 2 in 2008 which resulted in the successful recovery of 167 victims.

More recently, the Home Secretary has announced £1.6 million in funding for new and existing Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs)—the Government wants to see a SARC in every area. We are on course to meet our commitment to ratify the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings by the end of this year, introducing a 45-day minimum reflection period for all identified victims and temporary one-year renewable residence permits in certain circumstances. This goes beyond Convention requirements.

We are not complacent and we recognise that there is more to do in order to tackle violence against women. Addressing underlying attitudes which facilitate these crimes is essential, which is why the Government Equalities Office has commissioned work to examine how we can improve the effectiveness of media campaigns addressing violence against women. The Home Office has recently commissioned scoping work to investigate how Government as a whole can be more strategic in its approach to violence against women.