EVAW launches Women's Safety Manifesto & Call for a New Law on Support Services

20 September 2014

Since General Election 2010 – Jimmy Savile, Rotherham Inquiry & ‘grooming’ trials, more than 400 domestic violence murders, emergence of social media and online abuse


Women challenge Party Leaders on – women’s support services facing cuts, sex & relationships education, women seeking asylum, pornography & prostitution




As the main party conferences get under way, a leading coalition of more than 60 women’s organisations has published a Women’s Safety Manifesto calling on all Party Leaders to pledge that if elected they will implement policies which aim to prevent violence against women and girls in the long-term – including a new law to guarantee the availability of support services to victims of abuse.


The End Violence Against Women Coalition’s 8pp document calls for clear commitments to protect women's support services (including refuges, rape crisis centres and support for minority women) with a new law, make sex and relationships education compulsory, stop the detention of asylum seeking women who have suffered abuse, tackle the impact of online pornography and change the law on prostitution.


The Women’s Safety Manifesto refers to the storm of revelations of violence against women and girls since the last election which mean that rape and sexual assault, child sexual exploitation and domestic violence are never out of the news (see statistics below).


Campaigners believe that the exposure of the scale and nature of abuse is shifting public attitudes towards more understanding of why many victims do not report abuse to the police, and that the time is right for political leaders to capitalise on this and implement policy to prevent violence in the future – there is a strong evidence base for how to do this.


EVAW Coalition Co-Director Liz McKean said:


“Ongoing revelations demonstrate the extent to which violence against women and girls exists in our society. It is about time it had the high level political attention it deserves. The view that some abuse is inevitable is changing.


“We also have better gathering of information than ever before about police performance on some forms of violence against women, which lets us see that different approaches by different police forces really work better.


“There is also a huge resurgence of women’s rights campaigning – from schoolgirl Fahma Mohamed who convinced the Education Secretary no less to write to all schools telling them what they should be doing to prevent FGM (1), to the fantastic online projects Everyday Sexism and Counting Dead Women which are cataloguing the day to day abuse and violence women and girls continue to experience. It is time for political leaders to really take this on.


“We hope to see every Party Leader answer every part of our manifesto and tell us what they will do to end and prevent abuse of women and girls.


“What will they do to ensure victims of violence have access to high quality, specialist women’s support services even if they don’t go to the police?


“Will they make sex and relationships education compulsory in all schools to ensure attitudes that make excuses for abuse don’t set in?


“Will Party Leaders end the shame of the UK locking up vulnerable women asylum seekers who have suffered abuse in their home countries?


“Will they look at our ever more sexualized media and regulate it as the public indicate they want? (2)


“Will they review the law and services for women in prostitution, because the spotlight on the sexual abused and exploitation of girls in our country confirms that many adult women first enter prostitution when under-age and it is not acceptable to criminalise them as adults?


“EVAW Coalition members and 1000s of women’s rights campaigners are poised to ensure the general election debate includes answers to all these questions.”


The Women’s Safety Manifesto has five key asks:


A new law which guarantees access to specialist women’s support services for all victim-survivors of violence against women and girls, whether or not they go to the police. Many of these services have suffered severe cuts since 2010, at a time when demand for them has risen.


Compulsory sex and relationships education – as the key long-term measure to prevent abuse of women and girls. It should be part of a broader programme to prevent abuse including teacher training, better school policies and broader community involvement.


Address harmful media images – women’s groups want to see a consistent approach to the regulation of harmful images across television, film, music video, advertising and print media, based on harm-based criteria, and a comprehensive response to the harms of pornography.


Protect marginalised women – specialist support services must meet the needs of BME women, those with mental health needs, women with disabilities, and women with insecure immigration status; there should be an end to the detention of survivors of gender-based violence if they come to this country to seek asylum; we support the ‘Nordic model’ approach to prostitution so that those selling sex are not criminalised, whilst those purchasing sex are prosecuted.


Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plans - a new law requiring national and local governments to work with the women’s sector to develop violence against women and girls strategies and plans, and ensure resources for frontline services.


Violence against women and girls in the UK – The Facts


Around 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse in 2012.


85,000 women were raped in 2012 and over 400,000 women were sexually assaulted.


18,915 sexual crimes against children (mostly girls) under 16 were recorded in England and Wales in 2012/13.


In 2013, the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,302 cases. 82% of cases involved female victims.


At least 66,000 women in England and Wales have been subject to female genital mutilation.


Sexual bullying and harassment are routine in UK schools. Almost one in three 16-18 year old girls have experienced ‘groping’ or other unwanted sexual touching at school.


An FOI request by the The Independent published in August 2014 showed that more than 320 rapes were reported in UK schools over the past three years.


60% of young people are first exposed to pornography aged 14 years or younger (BBC/ICM poll, 2014) and research by the Children’s Commissioner in 2013 found that young people’s exposure to pornography is linked to sexist attitudes, beliefs that women are sex objects and negative attitudes towards sex.



Notes to editor

  1. Fahma Mohamed is an activist with Integrate Bristol which campaigns to end FGM:
  2. See for example research on the BBFC’s website indicating strong public support for age ratings and for control of films with sexually violent content

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