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EVAW Bulletin, December 2015

EVAW’s Review of the Year 2015 and look ahead to 2016

 

The General Election

An overwhelming case for Sex & Relationships Education

Women’s support services in crisis

Universities challenged on women students’ safety

Positive signs in 2015…

But worried about…

EVAW is 10!

And finally…what might 2016 hold?

 

The General Election

In the lead up to the General Election in May, we published our ‘Women’s Safety Manifesto’ asking candidates to make pledges on 6 key issues to improve women’s and girls’ safety. We wrote to the main parties and were pleased that violence against women and girls featured prominently in all manifestos. See our review of them here.

 

EVAW welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron and the new Government in May and we will be holding them to their manifesto commitments which include: action to ensure a “secure future for specialist FGM and forced marriage units, refuges and rape crisis centres”, and “requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material and age-ratings for all music videos”.

 

An overwhelming case for Sex & Relationships Education

During 2015 the case for making Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) compulsory in schools to prevent abuse became overwhelming with recommendations from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Education Select Committee and the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and Equality Now’s report on FGM prevalence. The National Assembly in Wales passed legislation, following consultation with our members Welsh Women’s Aid and BAWSO among others, to ensure action on girls’ safety in schools, and in Westminster, Caroline Lucas’ Private Members Bill to make PSHE statutory was well-supported although it failed. The case was underlined by a November report from the Children’s Commissioner on child sexual abuse, and a Freedom of Information investigation by the BBC showing that over the last three years on average more than 1,800 sexual assaults and 200 rapes were recorded by the police as taking place in schools each year across the UK. EVAW published a timely short Schools Guide at a special event in Parliament hosted by Neil Coyle MP and alongside Rape Crisis South London, the Children’s Commissioner and Peabody.

 

Women’s support services in crisis

At a time when more women than ever are seeking support after violence, specialist women’s support services are facing a funding crisis as a result of the localism agenda, combined with cuts to public services and poor commissioning practices. Eaves closed in October and specialist BME-led service, Apna Haq, is at severe risk.

 

EVAW is calling for a new law to ensure that women and girls who experience abuse have access to specialist services, and we published a new briefing paper, Survivors’ Rights, which summarises women’s and girls’ rights to access a specialist support service when suffering, or at risk of, abuse. Survivors’ Rights highlights two imminent and very significant new rights for victims/survivors to have specialist support in the aftermath of violence: the EU Victims Directive, which came into force in  November, and the Istanbul Convention, which the UK has signed but has yet to ratify.

 

The Autumn Statement in November allocated some additional funding for domestic violence services but we hope to see fuller commitments to ensure the long term sustainability of the whole of the specialist violence against women sector when the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy is updated in the new year.

 

Universities challenged on women students’ safety

The high levels of sexual harassment and assault experienced by women students at university, and the failure of their institutions to respond appropriately, has featured regularly in the news this year. EVAW published a legal briefing on universities’ obligations to ensure that women are safe and equal during their studies. We held a series of meetings with Government Ministers and we welcomed Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement of a Taskforce on violence against women and girls in universities which will produce recommendations next year.

 

EVAW in Geneva for launch of UN report on UK’s response to Violence Against Women

EVAW Co-Chair Marai Larasi was in Geneva to hear the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Professor Rashida Manjoo, deliver her final report on the UK’s response to VAWG following her ‘inspection’ visit to the UK last year. It recognized that the UK has an excellent policy framework in place for responding to violence against women and girls, but that the reality on the ground is patchy provision of support services for women seeking help; a failure to address the specific needs of BME, disabled and other marginalized women; and little work towards preventing violence before it happens. The Special Rapporteur recommends the UK take a three-pronged approach to improve its policy and practice:

 

(1) The UK should make the leap from good policy to detailed and resourced “implementation plans”, and should have taskforces of women with specific needs (such as BME women, disabled women, migrant women) inform these. This must lead to changes in the support, legal aid, asylum and criminal justice systems.

 

(2) The UK Government should urgently evaluate the way women’s support services are funded and then act to ensure a network of women-centred services are available to all who need them.

 

(3) The UK should commit to solid long-term prevention measures including compulsory Sex & Relationships Education in our schools.

 

Positive signs in 2015…

We welcome the recognition by some agencies that violence against women and girls is a major social problem, about which there is huge public concern. The CPS published guidelines for prosecutors on the investigation of consent in rape cases in January, and we supported their supported their social media campaign #ConsentIs later in the year. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan published non-compulsory guidance on consent for schools. The new Women’s Equality Party included action on violence against women and girls as one of its six objectives in its policy paper launched in October. EVAW and our partners Rape Crisis South London and Durham University professor Clare McGlynn welcomed the criminalisation of both ‘rape pornography’ and so-called ‘revenge pornography’ becoming law. An attempt to criminalise so-called ‘sex-selective abortion’ was defeated earlier this year when MPs listened to arguments about the likely impacts of such a move on women in some BME communities and their doctors.

 

But worried about…

Along with many others in the violence against women sector, we are deeply disappointed that the Government has still failed to fulfil its promise to ratify the Istanbul Convention giving victims/survivors rights to protection, support and prevention of violence. Our members were also disappointed that Amnesty International agreed a policy of supporting the decriminalisation of all aspects of the sex industry. Our submissions to Amnesty’s consultation setting out the human rights violations related to the sex industry are here.

 

EVAW is 10!

In 2005, EVAW first came together as a coalition calling for more joined up approaches to ending all forms of violence against women and girls. In November we marked 10 years of work together by publishing a review, ‘Where are we now?’, of Westminster Government action over the last decade. We set out the real progress that has been made, as well as the challenges we are still facing during a period which has seen an explosion of feminist activism challenging violence and abuse, and the exposure of high profile male perpetrators such as Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris. Our urgent recommendations to the Government are:

 

1. A new law to ensure women and girls get the support they need

2. Violence must be prevented in the first place

3. Consistent regulation of harmful media images

4. A coherent approach to tackling international VAWG

5. A law requiring governments at all levels to develop Violence Against Women and Girls Strategies.

 

And finally…what might 2016 hold?

We look forward to the new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy being published in the new year and hope it includes a plan for securing the future of life-saving specialist women’s support services. There will be further policy development to tackle the easy access that children have to online pornography and we look forward to that being linked to work under the VAWG strategy.

 

The Goddard Inquiry will be investigating the responses of twelve institutions to child sexual abuse and the Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry into child sexual abuse in the family will make its final report next year.

 

And finally there will be changes at EVAW as we recruit for a new permanent Director to replace Holly Dustin who stepped down this summer after nine years at the helm.

 

Please support our campaigning for a safer world for women and girls by making a donation. Every penny helps so many thanks!

 

We are very grateful for the support of all our supporters and funders, including Esmée Fairbairn, Sigrid Rausing Trust, JMG, Trust for London, the Coutts Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Amnesty International UK.

Follow us on Twitter @EVAWhd

For more information about EVAW see www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk 

 

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