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Safety in Public Spaces

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 26 November 2015

This Government are clear that women should be confident that they are safe in public spaces. We are bearing down on those whose criminal actions impinge on this right. We have made progress. Last year Crown Prosecution Service data showed the highest ever number of convictions for crimes of violence against women and girls. We are refreshing the cross-Government VAWG strategy, including providing more options on intervention to prevent harassment, assault and abuse.

Bristol’s women’s commission is leading the campaign to make Bristol a zero-tolerance city towards gender-based violence and exploitation. How can the Government help Bristol and other cities achieve a zero-tolerance approach?

I am very pleased to hear about the work taking place in Bristol. This Government are committed, as I have said, to making sure that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in society. I look forward to hear more about the work being done in Bristol.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital to provide extra protection for victims of stalking—who are often also affected by domestic violence and who are sometimes targeted and followed from family courts—in order to bring more perpetrators to justice?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Testimony that I have heard from victims of stalking shows the incredibly invasive nature of this crime and how damaging it is psychologically and emotionally. We are determined to tackle it, including by introducing the domestic abuse coercive control offence, which we passed in the Serious Crime Act 2015 and which we will be commencing shortly, to make sure that all domestic abuse is an offence and that the police have the weapons they need.

19. Councillor Michael Pavey of Brent council organised a fantastic event recently on women’s safety, female genital mutilation and domestic violence. He was disappointed, however, that the audience was overwhelmingly female. Does the Minister have any ideas about how to increase awareness of these issues among men, especially young men? (902397)

The hon. Lady makes a very important point, and as the Minister with responsibility for preventing abuse and exploitation I know that far too often I go to events where the audience is predominantly, if not exclusively, female. Yesterday, however, I was pleased to support the white ribbon campaign, which is the campaign for men against violence against women. The more we can do with such campaigns and more awareness raising, the more we can encourage people to understand that this is an issue that affects all members of society, no matter what their gender.

What assessment has been made of the impact of the two new specific offences introduced in 2012 of stalking and stalking involving fear of violence, adding protection for victims and also bringing perpetrators to justice?

We have seen some success with the stalking offences that my hon. Friend asks about. We are seeing more and more police forces using the stalking offences and making sure that victims are protected. It is so important that we protect victims and give them the support they need, and make sure that perpetrators are dealt with in such a way that they cannot get to those victims and that they suffer the right penalties.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic women face particularly high incidences of violence and abuse, and research the other day from the charity Tell MAMA showed that incidents of hate crime against Muslims had risen by more than 300% since the appalling attacks in Paris, and particularly against Muslim women. What steps can the Minister take to stamp out gender, faith and racially motivated violence against women and girls?

The hon. Lady will know that the Government recently announced that we are publishing new data sets to show racially motivated hate crime, particularly hate crime against Muslims, because we agree that we need to understand the scale of the problem and we need to make sure it is absolutely clear that it is not acceptable. There can be no excuse in any religious text for hatred and nobody should think they can get away with it.

I am grateful to the Minister. Does she recognise that the women’s sector is under enormous pressure, particularly specialist organisations that, for example, support black, Asian and minority ethnic women? The charity Eaves was forced to close earlier this month, Imkaan reports that 67% of its members are uncertain about the future sustainability of their funding, and generic providers are increasingly being commissioned to provide specialist services. Is it not time for a proper, sustainable funding strategy for services for victims of domestic and sexual violence, rather than gimmicky short-term fixes such as the tampon tax, which only women pay for?

It is a shame that the hon. Lady makes that comment. While we are in the position of having to pay that VAT, it is right that we use it to provide additional support for the services in question, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince) on coming up with the idea. The hon. Lady is quite right that we need those specialist services, but it is not that many weeks since the Labour party voted for a 10% cut in police funding. The Conservative party has maintained police funding, which will make sure that victims of these horrendous crimes get the support they need.