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Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 558: debated on Thursday 14 February 2013

4. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Education on measures to end violence against women and girls. (143139)

There have been a number of recent discussions involving ministerial colleagues in the Department for Education on issues relating to ending violence against women and girls. These include a round-table with police and crime commissioners and the Local Government Association on local commissioning, and a round-table last month on ending female genital mutilation.

The Minister for Women and Equalities has already welcomed the fact that 1 billion women are rising today, but does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the campaign wants the Government to do a lot more? Will he ensure that he works with the Education Secretary to make the prevention of violence against women and girls an integral part of education policy that is delivered in every school as part of the statutory curriculum, and will Ministers vote yes in today’s important debate?

We welcome the campaign and the opportunity for the House to debate these issues at greater length later today. Schools are, of course, free to teach about issues such as sexual consent within personal, social and health education or in other lessons, and children can benefit enormously from high-quality education that helps them to make safe and informed decisions and choices. The DFE has conducted a review of PSHE and will publish its outcomes later this year.

Will the Minister clarify whether there is a cross-departmental, multi-agency strategy for tackling the horrific practice of honour violence? How effective is this strategy?

My hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to this abhorrent crime. He uses the commonly received expression, but I urge everybody to stop using it, as there is nothing honourable at all about this form of criminal activity. It is part of the overall approach that the Government are taking to try to combat violence against women and girls. He will know that the Government have ring-fenced nearly £40 million of stable funding up to 2015 for a range of tasks of this type, including for the area he has raised.

It is “One Billion Rising” today, and the Minister’s response to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) was simply not good enough. We have had too many warm words and too much waffle from Ministers on this subject. It is no good saying that schools are free to teach about sexual consent. All schools should be teaching our children and young people not to harm each other and to have respect for themselves. They should be teaching them that sexual violence is not normal. The Department for Education has blocked for three years any movement on legislation to introduce compulsory sex and relationship education with zero tolerance of violence in schools. It has been looking at it for three years and has done nothing. It must act. Will the Minister now support that action and our debate today on introducing compulsory sex and relationship education in schools to protect our children?

I hear my Back Benchers saying, “What did you do?” The idea that this social problem began in May 2010 injects an unnecessarily partisan tone into an area that should be beyond party politics. Of course these matters are taught in schools right across the country. I am pleased that the campaign to reduce teenage relationship abuse, which has been effective and welcomed by people of all political persuasions, is being relaunched today. It will focus on what constitutes controlling and coercive behaviour. I hope it will have a compelling impact on boys in particular, but on teenagers of both sexes when they see that campaign.

I am sure the Minister recognises the importance of cross-border co-operation in tackling organised crime such as the trafficking of women and girls. Will he do everything in his power to ensure that Britain continues to co-operate with our European partners on this important issue?

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the need for international co-operation to combat all forms of crime, including the particular form of crime he brings to our attention. The Government are, of course, committed to working with other Governments all around the world to reduce serious and organised crime and its impact on the United Kingdom. That very much applies to other European countries as well.