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Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 604: debated on Monday 11 January 2016

Tackling violence against women and girls is a key Government priority. We have introduced a new offence of domestic abuse and are consulting on new measures to protect victims of stalking. We have already committed £40 million between 2016 and 2020 to support victims of domestic abuse. We will publish shortly a refreshed violence against women and girls strategy, setting out how we will do more still to support all victims.

Following the meeting with the Derbyshire police and crime commissioner candidate, Richard Bright, I was shocked to learn that on average between July and September last year one rape a week was reported to Derbyshire police, linked to nights out in Long Eaton, Ilkeston and Derby. Will my right hon. Friend outline what is being done to ensure that victims receive a good level of practical and emotional support following a sexual assault? What can be done to help the police bring predators to justice?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. First, we have generally seen an increase in the number of reports of rape and other sexual violence. It is good that people have more confidence to come forward, precisely because of the support they now feel they will get from the police and other services. It is, of course, important to ensure that support is available to individuals, for example at Rape Crisis centres. I am pleased to say that over the past five years the Government have made money available to ensure that new Rape Crisis centres have opened, unlike under the previous Labour Government when they were closing.

It is believed that 170,000 women and girls in the UK have endured female genital mutilation. It is right that the Government have introduced legislation and are funding projects in Africa and training NHS and education staff, but without significant UK grassroots intervention to change cultural norms, we will never prevent this horrific child abuse. When will the Secretary of State change her approach and invest in helping communities to prevent FGM, rather than failing to prosecute once the crime has been committed?

As the hon. Lady knows, we have taken the question of forced genital mutilation extremely seriously, which is why we have significantly strengthened the law on FGM and have issued a range of materials to support professionals in being able to understand these issues and spot signs of somebody being taken out of the country. I commend the work of the all-party parliamentary group on female genital mutilation and, in particular, of the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), who has ensured that information is made available to communities and community groups about what can be done to prevent forced genital mutilation and to ensure that people can spot the signs and stop it taking place.