Skip to main content

Violence Against Women and Girls

Volume 709: debated on Monday 28 February 2022

Tackling violence against women and girls is a top priority for this Government. Our actions include publishing a cross-Government strategy on tackling VAWG, to be followed shortly by a complementary domestic abuse plan; bringing in world-class legislation to tackle stalking, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, as well as the landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021; further increasing our funding for support services to £185 million a year by 2024-25; and making public spaces safer.

In December last year the Government rejected the recommendation to create a firewall to enable migrant victims to safely report domestic abuse to the police without fear of being reported to the immigration authorities. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services said that that would be in the public interest. Can the Minister say how exactly the Government plan to protect victims too frightened to come forward, and to protect the public from the rapists and abusers left free to offend with impunity?

Our domestic abuse plan and all the work we have done sets out clearly how we are going to protect the most vulnerable victims of domestic abuse, including those who may find themselves in the immigration system. We have support schemes for those women, and we take this seriously; we work extremely sensitively with our policing partners, who have specialist trained officers to recognise such cases and get support to the victims.

Remarkably, despite all the talk on violence against women and girls, the Home Secretary and the Minister still fail to grasp that misogyny is the driving force behind it. The offending histories of many perpetrators reveal how they escalate from lower-level criminal behaviour—offences that many do not report because they do not think they will be taken seriously, such as exposure, street harassment and catcalling. Racism, homophobia and ableism are addressed in law, but no such protections are afforded to women and girls. Why do the Home Secretary and the Minister continue to turn a blind eye to the culture that exists and is the root cause of violence against women and girls?

With the greatest respect, I think the hon. Lady completely mischaracterises the Government’s comprehensive, sweeping, serious and well-funded response to violence against women and girls, which she has heard me and the Home Secretary refer to earlier in this session. On the specific issue she raises, I highlight the fact that the police are recording more crimes of violence against women and girls, and there is an increased willingness of victims to come forward because of the work we and the criminal justice system have done. There is always more to do, but crime reporting in the VAWG sector is up by 12% to September 2021 on the same period of the prior year.

We have heard lots of words on strategies, taskforces, roundtables and action plans, yet many victims will never see justice, and more and more criminals are getting away with it. The House of Lords has voted to introduce a new crime of sex for rent, which Labour Members support and will be voting for tonight. Will the Minister back us?

My colleague the Policing Minister will be speaking to that amendment later, and we will be consulting on this specific issue. However, I want to highlight that there are already offences on the statute book to tackle this particular abhorrent form of behaviour.