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Violence Against Women

Volume 572: debated on Thursday 12 December 2013

The coalition Government is strongly committed to tackling violence against women and girls. Some £40 million of funding has been ring-fenced between 2011 and 2015 for specialist domestic and sexual violence services. We have created two new offences of stalking, introduced legislation to criminalise forced marriage, and re-launched our successful national “This is Abuse” campaign. On 25 November, we also announced the roll-out of domestic violence protection orders and Clare’s law to provide greater protection for victims.

A clear majority of women in prostitution experience serious violence in an exploitative trade that promotes wider gender inequality. Will the Minister commit to reviewing the European Union’s draft report on sexual exploitation, which makes it clear that the burden of criminality should shift from seller to buyer, and write to me with his reflections?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of vulnerable women involved in prostitution. The Government is particularly concerned about women who have been trafficked who end up in that situation, and that is the primary concern that we are taking forward.

Last year 1.2 million women were victims of domestic violence. It is well known that the police do not prioritise dealing with these crimes, so what more can be done to encourage them to take them seriously and deal with them properly?

I assure my hon. Friend that we have made our concerns known to the police and to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and we are taking matters forward with them. Yesterday the Home Secretary and I met the DPP and the national policing lead to try to make sure that we understand why there has been a drop in referrals. However, it is also worth pointing out that the number of successful prosecutions for domestic violence has risen to 73%—the highest ever.

8. The recent report by the Children’s Commissioner into child sexual exploitation found really shocking levels of sexual assault and rape among children, and that young people had a very limited understanding of consent. I listened to the Minister’s response, but he said nothing about how we inform the next generation. Why are the Government refusing to implement the Children’s Commissioner’s recommendation and make sex and relationship education compulsory in all our schools?

It is a bit unfair to say that I did not mention such matters, because I referred to the re-launch of the “This is Abuse” campaign, which has already been very successful, with 85,000 visits to the website since it was launched last week and 19,000 plays of the “Hollyoaks” TV advert. We are getting through to young people through that campaign. I agree with the hon. Lady that child sexual exploitation is a very serious issue indeed, and I congratulate the deputy Children’s Commissioner on the work she has undertaken, which we are taking forward in conjunction with her.

Female genital mutilation is a particularly pernicious form of violence against women. Why has nobody in this country yet been convicted of being a party to this appalling practice?

That is a question I have asked the Director of Public Prosecutions, because the legislation has been on the statute book for 28 years and throughout that time there has been no successful prosecution. I think that that partly relates to the reluctance of children to give evidence against parents. I assure my hon. Friend that we are considering the matter. The DPP is looking at existing cases and reviewing whether we can reopen some of them, and I am hopeful that there will be prosecutions in the near future.