Domestic violence: new Bill does not address urgent need

Bill fails to recognise the gendered dynamics of domestic violence, offers little to protect the rights of migrant women and doesn't address the urgent crisis in women's support services.

Responding to the Government tabling the Domestic Violence Bill in Parliament today (16 July), the End Violence Against Women Coalition Co-Director Rachel Krys said:

“While we are glad to see that the long discussed Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill is now in Parliament, we remain concerned that it is still not likely to lead to the significant change we desperately need.

“The Government has stated it is moved by the harm domestic violence does to women and families, and has consulted on the Bill with women’s groups and with MPs across Parliament. But it is worrying that what is before us now is still lacking in key areas.

“The Bill fails to recognise that women are very disproportionately the victims of domestic violence and maintains a “gender neutral” approach. This is a backwards step from the accepted national framework – the cross-government Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy – and will not help frontline workers across our public services truly understand the phenomenon we are dealing with. It also fails to make the links with other forms of abuse – including forced marriage and rape – and because of this is a missed opportunity to address major problems in our response to these issues.

“There is still no clear commitment to address the ongoing “hostile environment” facing migrant women who are abused by their partners. Migrant women married to British men, students, women on work visas and asylum-seeking women are usually not entitled to support including refuge protection, and may even be treated as immigration offenders. This shames us all and has to be changed. But, despite considerable attention during the Bill consultation stage, it is still not significantly addressed.

“And, the Bill gives no assurances about the protection of the specialist women’s support services in our local communities, which have been decimated by cuts and a vicious competitive tendering process. You can have as many new policing measures as you like but if the specialist support services who really know and understand what women and children need are not there for them, it will achieve very little. Right now, life-saving 32-year-old Newham-based support service, the London Black Women’s Project is facing a threat to its survival. National Government policy and legislation are offering no answers to this.

“Domestic violence, alongside other forms of gender-based violence, has been named, exposed and challenged for several decades. We urge Government to consider the strong recommendations already made by cross-party MPs as they reviewed the draft Bill, and we urge MPs to improve it every step of the way as it goes through Parliament. We want to see, as a minimum, a non-discrimination clause inserted into the Bill so that it is clear that EVERY woman is entitled to protection.”

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