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Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 614: debated on Wednesday 14 September 2016

1. What steps she is taking to support grassroots women’s rights organisations which are working to tackle violence against women and girls in developing countries. (906314)

It is an honour to stand here today as the International Development Secretary. I believe passionately in my Department’s mission to end extreme poverty. Violence against women and girls is a global scandal that the Department for International Development is working to end. We invest in hundreds of organisations to improve the lives of millions of women and girls globally. I pay tribute to the leadership of my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) on the issue. I am determined to continue our work on this agenda.

Only 1% of gender-specific funds are spent on women’s rights organisations. Does the Secretary of State not think she could do more, and will she align with ActionAid, whose campaign “Fearless” has really taken off?

I pay tribute to those involved in championing that campaign. There are more than 40 existing mechanisms through which funding is channelled to women’s rights organisations. I believe—rightly so—that we channel our funding in the right way to support the right objectives and outcomes for women and girls around the world.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to her place. Women refugees often suffer violence on their journeys to safety, and the practice of registering only the head of the family in asylum processes often leaves their needs neglected. Will the Secretary of State reassure the House that at the UN summit on refugees next week the voice of women refugees will get a proper hearing?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her very important and significant question. She is right to point out that there is a conference at the UN General Assembly next week specifically on refugees, on which our Prime Minister and President Obama will be leading. Those are the very issues and challenges that will be reflected in the summit, and Britain will lead the way in standing up for the rights of women refugees and doing the responsible thing for them.

During the summer holidays many girls are taken from the UK to developing countries, where they are subjected to the brutality of female genital mutilation. What is the Secretary of State doing to prevent those girls from being taken out of the country in that way?

The hon. Lady rightly highlights the abhorrent practice of FGM and that vulnerable girls are abused in that way. I am working with colleagues across Government on a strategy to ensure not just that we do more but that we end that practice and, importantly, bring the perpetrators of that abhorrent crime to justice.

12. An Independent Commission for Aid Impact report says that support for women’s rights organisations remains “a…neglected area in DfID’s programming”and recommends strengthening grassroots women’s rights organisations as a route to scaling up prevention of violence. Given the Government’s commitment under sustainable development goal 5 on women’s rights and girls’ empowerment, what steps will the Secretary of State take in her new role on the ICAI’s advice? (906325)

As I said in my opening remarks, I pay tribute to the work of my predecessor, who has led the way on women’s rights and rights for girls. The hon. Lady is right to point to the SDGs. DFID is doing a great deal. We recognise the critical role of women’s rights and the organisations that we partner and work with. We will continue to do exactly that.

I welcome the Secretary of State to her place. What programmes does her Department provide to counter the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war and subjugation?

The hon. Lady raises the abuse and the abhorrent crimes that take place against women and girls in conflict and conflict zones. We work with a whole range of organisations, and civil society also plays a part in achieving the right outcomes. We work with Governments around the world and through our multilateral relationships through the United Nations not only to work with countries and organisations to try to stop that practice but to deal with the perpetrators of those appalling crimes.