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Date Published
December 14, 2023

This week (11th December 2023), a coalition of 58 leading organisations working to end violence against women and girls (VAWG) in England and Wales have published a shadow report on the UK’s implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence – known as the Istanbul Convention.

The report was requested by GREVIO – the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence – an independent expert body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, who are evaluating the extent to which the UK government is meeting its duties under the Convention. The UK Government has submitted its own report as part of this evaluation.

The Istanbul Convention is the gold standard legal framework for tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), setting minimum standards for each state’s approach. The UK Government finally ratified the Convention on 21st July 2022, ten years after signing it, but with reservations around providing equal support and protection for migrant women.

In the shadow report, the coalition of 58 organisations, which includes those led by and for Black and minoritised women, LGBT+ and Deaf and disabled survivors, outline a number of areas the UK is undermining its own commitments to tackle violence against women, including:

  • Hostile immigration policies which harm migrant women and prevent them from accessing support and protection from abuse. As a sector, we were dismayed by the UK government’s reservations on two key articles (44 and 59) in the Istanbul Convention which set out commitments to provide support and protection for migrant women, with over 80 specialist VAWG organisations signing a letter to the UK government calling on them to ratify the Convention without reservations.
  • Attacks on our fundamental human rights. The government has recently passed a series of harmful laws which undermine our human rights: the Policing Act to the Public Order Act, Nationality and Borders Act and Illegal Migration Act. Despite attempts to scrap our Human Rights Act outright being shelved, a number of Bills, including the Victims and Prisoners Bill, contain measures that undermine it. Either all of us have rights or none of us do, and we reject tackling violence against women being used to justify some of these regressive laws.
  • Funding for specialist support services. There are hundreds of specialist VAWG services delivering lifesaving support to women and children across England and Wales, but these services are not funded sustainably, leaving many on the brink of collapse – particularly essential services delivered by and for Black, minoritised and migrant women, Deaf and disabled women, and LGBT+ people. The End Violence Against Women Coalition has joined other expert VAWG organisations to campaign for the Victims and Prisoners Bill to introduce funding of at least £238 million per year to domestic abuse community-based services, as well as ring-fenced funding for by and for organisations.
  • Threats to quality Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE). Despite RSHE becoming compulsory in schools in 2020, there remains a lack of meaningful commitment and resourcing for this critical prevention work. Additionally, recent progress in the delivery of this subject has been threatened by a troubling backlash to RSHE in schools, which appears to have been largely fuelled by anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, contested claims about inappropriate content, and a concerning response from the government. 
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:

“We’re proud to be one of 58 expert organisations standing together to hold the UK Government accountable for its commitments to tackling violence against women and girls.

We know that violence against women and girls is preventable, but to do so takes political will, prioritisation and resourcing. Currently, the government should be investing more into life-saving specialist services for survivors, and prevention work in schools with young people. We are also seeing a concerning direction of enacting laws and policies that actively harm migrant women and undermine all of our rights. 

If the government is serious about meeting its stated commitments to tackling VAWG, it must address the safety, protection and rights of all victims and survivors, utilise the transformative approach enshrined in the Istanbul Convention, and respond to the asks of specialist organisations supporting and advocating for women and girls in this shadow report.”

Media contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, 07960 744 502

Date Published
December 14, 2023
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