General Election 2015
On 7 May 2015 people across the UK will vote for their local Member of Parliament in a general election.
What are the parties pledging to do to end violence against women and girls?
Following the publication of our Women's Safety Manifesto, EVAW has written to the Party Leaders asking them to set out their policies on ending violence against women and girls - we are asking about their policies on:
- Support services for women and girls for all forms of abuse
- Sex and relationships education in schools
- Harmful media images
- The detention of asylum-seeking women
- Local planning to end and prevent abuse
We are following their manifestos and policy announcements closely. Here are some of their responses to us, and our assessment of their commitments to end abuse of women and girls:
- Work with local authorities, the NHS and Police and Crime Commissioners to ensure a secure future for specialist FGM and forced marriage units, refuges and rape crisis centres.
- "Continue the urgent work of overhauling how our police, social services and and other agencies work together to protect vulnerable children, especially from the kind of organised grooming and sexual exploitation that has come to light in Rotherham, and other towns and cities across the UK."
- Ensure that the independent statutory inquiry into child sexual abuse "can challenge institutions and individuals without fear or favour and establish the truth of what happened."
The Conservatives' manifesto also includes:
- Pp59-60 sets out a section on how "We will prioritise tackling violence against women and girls" by ensuring a secure future for specialist services; ensuring state-funded lawyers working on serious sexual volence cases have specialist training; supporting the Westminster child sexual abuse Inquiry; and continuing the overhaul of all services related to child sexual exploitation.
- The introduction of age verification systems for access to pornography websites and age ratings for music videos (currently music videos are undergoing a pilot voluntary age rating system) (p35)
- A focus on gender equality within the UK's overseas policies (pp78-79)
- Repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a 'British Bill of Rights' (p58)
- Provide proper funding for Women’s Refuges for survivors of domestic violence and ensure consistent long-term funding for a national network of Rape Crisis Centres spending up to £100m during the Parliament.
- Implement a UK-wide strategy to tackle violence against women, which will confront domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, female genital mutilation and trafficking.
- “Listen to girls and young women about relationships education and about sexism in the media and make PSHE a compulsory part of the school curriculum.”
- “Tackle media sexism, starting with working with retailers to stop lads mags and other pornography from being sold in supermarkets and newsagents.”
- Immediately end the administrative detention of children and pregnant women.
- Not consider a 'sex buyer law', stating they would instead “decriminalise sex work” because "prohibition has failed to bring an end to the sex industry."
- "Work to change attitudes towards rape, including improving initial responses to women, early evidence collection and access to justice, should the individual decide to report to the police."
- “Fund the creation of Women’s Centres, starting with a nationwide set of pilots, to protect women and girls from violence. We would expand this to a universal nationwide scheme, run in the voluntary sector by women but given secure long-term core funding through local government.”
The Green Party manifesto also includes:
- A UK-wide violence against women and girls strategy (p25)
- Compulsory equality and diversity lessons for all school children (p27)
- Funding of Rape Crisis centres and domestic violence refuges as well as making domestic violence a specific criminal offence (p76)
- Commit to Central Government funding for refuge and Rape Crisis services
- Set up a Violence Against Women & Girls Commissioner who would develop national standards for the provision of these services
- Require local authorities to develop local 'VAWG' plans
- Make Sex & Relationships Education compulsory to teach "equal & respectful relationships"
- Support the Conservative proposal for age restrictions on pornography websites
- Commit to ending the detention of pregnant women and women who have been trafficked, tortured or raped
- Look at the international evidence on best policy and practice towards prostitution with women's safety and protection the central focus
The Labour manifesto also includes:
- On p53 Labour makes commitments to “Ending violence against women and girls,” including the setting up of the Commissioner to address violence against women and girls, banning community resolutions as a response to domestic violence, tightening the gun licensing regime, and widening access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence (access has been reduced since 2010)
- Labour will set up a new Child Protection Unit working across all areas of Government to work towards preventing child abuse and sexual exploitation (p52)
- Mandatory reporting of child abuse (p45)
- Protect the Human Rights Act (p67)
- Focus on women’s rights in foreign/development policy (p76)
Labour’s Women’s Manifesto includes additional pledges to: consult on strengthening the law on FGM; give victims of sexual violence the right to request a review of police decision-making on their case; order an independent investigation of allegations of absue at Yarls Wood detention centre
- Bring in a statutory duty for local authorities to assess the needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence and develop local plans; develop a system of national accountability for provision of refuges
- "Build on" coalition commitment of £40 million ringfenced funding for these services
- would create national helpline for domestic and sexual violence survivors
- Compulsory SRE to help young people make "informed choices"
- Set up a review of media sexism chaired by an industry insider
- Better training of staff working with pregnant and abused women in the asylum system
- Commitment to an International Gender Equality Strategy
The Lib Dem manifesto also includes:
- A section on p121 ‘Tackling violence against women and girls” where they say they would: ensure frontline professionals are trained on FGM and forced marriage; maintain the post of International Champion for preventing violence; create a national helpline for victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence; ensure the DPP’s new guidance on prosecuting the law on sexual consent is mainstreamed throughout the criminal justice system
- Challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation by working with schools to promote positive body image and understanding of the law on sexual consent (p107)
- Introduce a the right to have police decisions reviewed (pp120-121)
- Implement the modern slavery strategy to tackle trafficking and exploitation (p121)
- Create a Women’s Justice Board to improve the rehabilitation of women offenders (often survivors of and very vulnerable to abuse) (p123)
- Review current access to legal aid and to judicial review (124)
- Protect the Human Rights Act (p114)
Here is our Letter to Leanne Wood and and we will publish any response here...
The Plaid Cymru manifesto includes:
- “Introduce a Victims’ Rights Bill and train all professionals in the criminal justice system so victims of crime cannot be ignored or forgotten”. (p31)
- Reverse Legal Aid reforms to allow fair access to justice and monitor its implementation. (p31)
- Funding and developing “appropriate prison facilities for women prisoners in Wales.” (p31)
- “Stop undercover agents from forming relationships as part of their double-agent work, causing devastation to those duped and undermining confidence in the security services.” (p31)
- Oppose any moves by a UK Government to remove the Human Rights Act or withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights. (p31)
The Scottish Nationalist Party manifesto includes:
- “Seek to maintain the protections provided by the Equality Act 2010 and will ask the government to engage with key stakeholders on potential improvements.” (p23)
- "Ask the UK government to conduct an early review of the current immigration detention system and regime, in order to deliver a fairer and more effective system as we move forward." (p23)
- “Oppose scrapping the Human Rights Act or withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.” (p23)
SNP's Women's Pledge also includes additional pledges to: ensure that no girl grows up or woman lives in fear of abuse and violence.
Here is our Letter to Nigel Farage and we will publish any response here...
The UKIP manifesto includes:
- Age appropriate sex and relationships education in secondary schools only and not in primary schools. The UKIP manifesto includes a specific section on SRE on p29 but there seems to be a design/printing error where it talks about the risk of “encouraging experimentation” but what might do this is omitted.
- Mandatory reporting of FGM for teachers, social workers, police, nurses and GPs; and awareness training for teachers and school governors as part of safeguarding training (p61)
- A full, open review of all childcare and child protection services in Britain (p27)
- Prosecute all cases of adult sexual behaviour with under-age minors (p55)
- On p55, “a zero tolerance approach to cultural practices that are either illegal or which conflict with British values and customs, including forced marriages, female genital mutilation and ‘so-called’ honour killings. We will enforce the law and prosecute where necessary”
- On p27, “To help prevent thousands of fathers losing contact with their children each year when couples break up, UKIP will legislate for an initial presumption of 50-50 shared parenting in child residency matters”
- Remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and “repeal Labour’s human rights legislation (the Human Rights Act)” (p53)
Here are some assessments of the parties' pledges from sister organisations and activists:
Women for Refugee Women on the parties' commitments regarding the detention of asylum seeking women
Women's Aid on the provision of services for survivors of domestic violence
Southall Black Sisters' Pragna Patel on equality and justice at stake in #GE2015
Professor Sarah Childs wonders if we will see the creation of a Women & Equalities Select Committee after the election, to allow better scrutiny of law and policy making in this area
Women's Budget Group on policies for a caring and sustainable economy
Have your candidates taken the #WomensSafetyPledge?