Our fundamental human rights are under attack.
The government is passing new laws that will reverse hard won rights and protections and leave us unable to challenge government decisions or hold institutions to account. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (known as the Policing Bill) and the Nationality and Borders Bill contain measures that will increase risks of violence against women and girls while reducing access to support and safety.
The Policing Bill
The government is using public outrage about violence against women and girls to introduce its regressive Policing Bill – a law that will increase police powers, diminish our collective freedoms and deepen inequality.
The Policing Bill is an attack on our fundamental human rights – including the right to protest, which is woven into the long and rich history of women’s rights movements and is crucial for social change. The law will have little positive impact on violence against women, as it fails to tackle the root causes of male violence and prevent abuse. What’s more, increased police powers will worsen racial inequality – through increased police profiling and intrusion into the lives of Black and ethnic minority communities.
The police already abuse their power to commit acts of violence against women and girls, while failing to properly address reports of violence against us. We know that:
- At least 15 serving or former police officers have killed women since 2009
- 2,000 police officers have been accused of sexual misconduct, including rape, over the past four years.
- More than 750 Met Police employees have faced sexual misconduct allegations since 2010, and only 83 were sacked
- Undercover police officers deceived protesters they were spying on into sexual relationships, with the knowledge of senior officers who had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy
- One woman a week reports domestic abuse by a police officer and a super-complaint highlighted systemic failures to hold officers accountable
- The police inspectorate found police are failing to use protective measures in domestic abuse and sexual violence cases and called for radical, whole system change in how the police respond to violence against women and girls
Increasing police powers without radically overhauling how the police operate is dangerous to women.
The Nationality and Borders Bill
We all have the right to be safe from male violence, no matter where we are from. But the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill will criminalise women and girls crossing borders to seek safety – many of whom are survivors of some of the worst forms of violence.
This law will leave countless women and girls without safe routes into the UK – leaving them at risk of violence at the hands of smugglers, traffickers and others who may abuse and exploit them. By making it harder to claim international protection, more women will face being locked up in immigration detention where they are vulnerable to abuse, harm and being returned to countries where they are not safe from violence.
The government’s ‘hostile environment’ already stops migrants from accessing public services and puts them at risk of immigration enforcement. This leaves thousands of women more afraid of the police than their perpetrator and trapped in abusive situations.
The Human Rights Act
In addition to these new, harmful laws, the government plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act, which protects our fundamental rights and provides the only legal tool for the public to hold the police to account for serious failings. This legal protection is fundamental to women’s rights, as we know that an overwhelming number of police failings relate to sexual violence and domestic abuse. This will have a devastating impact on how we challenge breaches of our rights.
To make matters worse, the government plans to limit our ability to challenge its decisions. By changing access to judicial review, the public could lose a vital tool to challenge the government. This will have a significant impact on women, who have relied on judicial review to hold the police to account for failing to protect them from rapists like John Worboys. In this case, survivors used judicial review to hold the police to account, which resulted in the creation of a duty of care on the police to adequately investigate violence against women.
This is a moment in history that will shape the future for generations to come. This is urgent – now more than ever we need to join together to protect our rights.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition joins a wide cross-section of society in calling for both the Policing Bill and the Nationality and Borders Bill to be scrapped, and for the Human Rights Act and judicial review to be protected.