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Violence against women

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

The Petition of members of the Cheshire Federation of the Women’s Institute, declares that violence against women is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality and that the Government is not doing enough to prevent violence against women from occurring; and further declares that there seems to be a mentality that abuse of women and girls is a fact of life

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 right to live free from violence, and its threat, by taking steps to eliminate violence against women

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Edward Timpson, Official Report, 4 November 2008; Vol. 482, c. 227 .]

[P000280]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government takes the issue of violence against women, in all its forms, very seriously. All of us, including the Government, have a responsibility to address violence against women: within our families, within our communities, at our places of work or study and within our society at large. Violence against women perpetuates inequality and the Government does not accept it as a “fact of life”.

The Government has developed a number of linked national action plans for domestic violence which include tackling female genital mutilation, forced marriage and crimes committed in the name of honour; sexual assault and rape; prostitution and human trafficking. Each of these areas of work identifies a number of joined-up work streams that are being pursued across Government departments. In recent years, the plans have focused attention and funding on these issues at both a national and local level to ensure that there is comprehensive and co-ordinated delivery.

Key actions taken by this Government include:

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;

Announcement of measures following a six month Government review into tackling demand for prostitution to make men think twice before paying for sex and ultimately reduce the demand for prostitution and trafficked women;

Implementation of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 giving courts the power to issue Forced Marriage Protection Orders to prevent someone from forcing another person into marriage;

Raising the age at which someone can apply for a marriage visa from 18 to 21 as part of a crackdown on forced marriage;

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

Introduction of legislation, such as the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Domestic Violence and Victims Act 2004, which has improved both the way in which the criminal justice system deals with the crimes and victims’ access to justice.

More recently, the Government 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. Furthermore, 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.

The Government is committed to ensure that women and girls are not subject to any form of violence and it values taking a fresh look at work to tackle violence against women through the prism of gender. This is why we will be implementing a cross-Government consultation on violence against women; further details will be available shortly.