We have recently observed International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, and, as it is such an important issue, I am writing a blog post to explain the situation and what the Government is doing to remedy it.
Last year, 76 women were killed by partners or ex-partners. This is the lowest number since this data was recorded but it is still, of course, 76 too many. We know that the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicates that 1.2 million women were victims of domestic abuse last year and that over 300,000 were victims of sexual assault.
Domestically, the Government has provided funding of £40m over the next few years to provide a critical bedrock of support to victims, including an increase in rape support centres with funding for 86 rape centres across England and Wales.
Working with schools and addressing issues early on is absolutely vital. The Government has made provision of good quality teaching materials to schools to help to promote healthy relationships. Only by preventing violence and abuse in the first place can we hope to make sustainable changes over the long term. Ministers are also driving a culture change in the police response by ensuring the recommendations from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s review into domestic abuse are acted upon and applied to all areas of violence against women and girls to promote a culture of victim belief.
As for legislation, since 2010, the Government has criminalised forced marriage, introduced new stalking laws, and rolled out Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme across the country, and is currently criminalising revenge pornography. They have also committed up to £25 million to scale up DFID’s work on child, early, and forced marriage in 12 priority countries, working closely with UNICEF.
The Government is also strengthening the law on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the ways I campaigned for as a Minister. In addition, the Department for International Development’s flagship programme to support the African movement to end FGM, with total funding of up to £35 million over five years, aims to see a of 30% in at least 10 countries in five years, with an ambition towards ending FGM in a generation. These are issues that I myself have recently raised with the Women and Equalities Minister in a Written Parliamentary Question which can be found here.
The Government is clear that their priority – the people to whom they are absolutely committed – is the victims and survivors of violence and abuse.
Whether victims of child abuse and exploitation, adult survivors of abuse, victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, FGM, or forced marriage, they are determined to drive a culture change to support victims and survivors and to equip frontline services with the tools they need to tackle these crimes.