GE 2019 Manifestos: What do they say about ending Violence Against Women & Girls?

EVAW's review of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party pledges to tackle violence against women & girls

What do the party manifestos say about ending Violence against Women & Girls?

For this General Election, the manifestos and spending documents produced by the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties all contain pledges to tackle violence against women and girls. We have summarised these here below.

We have also written to the party leaders asking specific questions about policy on ending abuse. You can read our letters here, where we will also publish any replies we receive.

Conservative Party

  • Pass the Domestic Abuse Bill
  • “…increase support for refuges and community support for victims of rape and sexual abuse.”
  • Pilot integrated domestic abuse courts that address criminal and family matters
  • “…continue to fight crime against women and girls, including rape, Female Genital Mutilation and forced marriage.”
  • Pass a Victims Law that guarantees victims’ rights and support
  • Additional spending commitments per year on support for rape victims and increased resource for the CPS to tackle sexual violence in their manifesto, which includes a £15 million funding pledge next year to the crisis in rape prosecutions and support in order to “cut delays, speed up charging decisions, and keep more victims engaged with the process until trial”
  • A “root-and-branch review of the parole system” giving victims the right to attend hearings and “a Royal Commission on the criminal justice process” (budgeted at £3m for 2020/21)
  • The Conservatives will “update the Human Rights Act and administrative law” which they say will “ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government.” They will also “ensure that judicial review is available to protect the rights of the individuals against an overbearing state, while ensuring that it is not abused to conduct politics by another means or to create needless delays.” [EVAW Coalition: Human Rights law and the JR mechanism are both critical instruments for the defence and promotion of women’s rights to live free from abuse.] The proposed reforms would be considered in the first year by a Constitution, Democracy & Rights Commission.
  • Strengthen the National Crime Agency to tackle threats including child sexual abuse, modern slavery and people trafficking
  • Strengthen the accountability of elected Police and Crime Commissioners and expand their role. [EVAW Coalition: Since 2012 Police and Crime Commissioners have acquired considerable executive power to determine local policing priorities, and how victims funds are spent in England and Wales, which has a huge impact on whether crimes of violence against women and girls, including sexual and domestic violence are responded to. See our briefing on PCCs and VAWG for more information.]
  • Main carer to receive Universal Credit payments [EVAW Coalition: see women’s groups’ concerns on splitting UC payments here]

Green Party

  • A UK-wide strategy to tackle gender-based violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and trafficking, as well as working with perpetrators to prevent them from continuing to abuse
  • Reverse cuts to legal aid “to prevent survivors being forced to represent themselves against their abusers in court” and re-introduce a new Domestic Abuse Bill, which enables prosecution of economic abuse
  • Roll back cuts to domestic violence support centres and women’s refuges, and increase funding to provide more safe and secure accommodation for women and their children
  • Put funding for Rape Crisis Centre services on a sustainable footing and increase and ring fence the Rape Support Fund and ensure funds are provided via the Victim Surcharge
  • Make misogyny a hate crime across the UK and increase the police’s capacity to deal with domestic violence and misogynistic hate crimes
  • An intersectional approach to hate crime, which recognises the groups of women who are most at risk
  • Introduce a regulatory framework for online harms to “ensure social media companies take responsibility for how their platforms are being used” and invest in technological solutions to address misogyny and online harassment
  • Establish a new press regulatory regime which will allow women to make formal complaints about media coverage that encourages misogyny against women
  • Clear commitment to the Human Rights Act and to the European Convention on Human Rights and creation of a new Ministry for the Interior to uphold human rights
  • Legal, safe and affordable abortion services for all women
  • Fund training to support the delivery of “comprehensive, age appropriate Personal Health and Sexual Education (PHSE) lessons in schools covering all aspects of sex and relationships, with a focus on consent.”
  • Training of school staff in spotting and stopping sexual harassment and bullying, and confront racism through a broader and decolonialised curriculum in school
  • Support and develop a network of specialist women’s centres in order to reduce the female prison population
  • Establish a cross-government strategy tasked with tackling “ethnic inequalities”, and replace ‘Prevent’ with community cohesive policing which “engages rather than antagonises Black Minority Ethnic (BME) communities” [EVAW: this relates to VAWG as frontline public sector workers need to understand and respond well to the needs of all women and girls who disclose abuse]
  • End the hostile environment by ending indefinite detention, closing immigration detention centres, suspending all deportation flights and allowing refugees to live freely, with a right to work, whilst their applications are considered, and providing recourse to public support for migrants and asylum seekers who need it [EVAW: Migrant women with insecure immigration status are often at a heightened risk of violence and exploitation, and less able to access specialist support, public services and justice.]

Labour Party

  • Create a new Department for Women and Equalities, with a full-time Secretary of State, responsible for “ensuring all policies and laws are equality-impact assessed with the aim of delivering a fairer society for women and all under-represented groups”; and establish a National Women’s Commission as an independent advisory body to government
  • Create a Commissioner for Violence against Women and Girls
  • Ratify the Istanbul Convention and the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment at work
  • Establish an independent review into low rape prosecution rates; and ensure financial stability for rape crisis centres
  • Reintroduce Domestic Abuse Bill; establish a National Refuge Fund and ensure women’s refuges receive long-term sustainable funding; and introduce 10 days of paid leave for survivors of domestic abuse
  • Improve the safety of the family court system for domestic violence victims and prohibit their cross-examination by their abuser
  • Introduce protections for victims of image-based abuse; and misogyny and violence against women and girls will become hate crimes
  • Scrap the benefit cap and the two child limit ‘rape clause’; and provide split payments of Universal Credit and pay the child element to the main carer [EVAW Coalition: see women’s groups’ concerns on splitting UC payments here]
  • Clear commitment to the 1998 Human Rights Act, remaining a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and advancing human rights legislation by incorporating the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination into British law; and enhance the powers and functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Labour has pledged to end the ‘hostile environment’ which they say requires “landlords, teachers and medical staff to work as unpaid immigration officers” [EVAW: Migrant women with insecure immigration status are often at a heightened risk of violence and exploitation, and less able to access specialist support, public services and justice.]
  • A pledge to end indefinite detention, reviewing alternatives to detention centres, closing Yarl’s Wood and Brook House, and using the money for this to contribute towards a £20 million support fund for survivors of modern slavery, trafficking and domestic violence.
  • Labour’s additional Race and Faith manifesto says they will implement a comprehensive strategy for racial equality, “that challenges the socio-economic disadvantage many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities suffer” [EVAW: policy making based on race equality is essential for BME and migrant women survivors of VAWG who face additional barriers to accessing protection, support and justice from public and voluntary services.]
  • Review the Prevent programme to assess its effectiveness and potential to alienate minority communities [EVAW: this relates to VAWG as frontline public sector workers need to understand and respond well to the needs of all women and girls who disclose abuse]
  • Invest in proven alternatives to custody, including women’s centres and more funding for the female offender strategy
  • Restore legal aid advice, including for housing, social security, family and immigration cases
  • Uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortion

Liberal Democrat Party

  • Ratify and bringing into law the Istanbul Convention
  • Expand the number of refuges and rape crisis centres to meet demand; and establish a national rape crisis helpline
  • Give local authorities the duty and funding to provide accommodation and support for survivors of abuse; and ensure sustainable grant-funding for specialist independent support services
  • Legislate for a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes its effects on children; and ensure access to special measures for survivors in all courts, and prevent direct cross-examination of survivors by their abusers
  • Commitment to the Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights and opposition to any laws that “unnecessarily erode civil liberties”
  • Introduce a ‘curriculum for life’ in all state-funded schools to include age-appropriate Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)
  • Create a new Online Crime Agency to tackle illegal content and activity online, including image-based abuse and threats and incitement to violence on social media
  • Remove the two-child limit and the benefits cap, and reduce the wait for the first universal credit payment from five weeks to five days
  • Replace Police and Crime Commissioners with accountable Police Boards made up of local councillors [EVAW Coalition: Since 2012 Police and Crime Commissioners have acquired considerable executive power to determine local policing priorities, and how victims funds are spent in England and Wales, which has a huge impact on whether crimes of violence against women and girls, including sexual and domestic violence are responded to. See our briefing on PCCs and VAWG for more information.]
  • Establish a Women’s Justice Board relating to women offenders and provide specialist training for all staff in contact with women in the criminal justice system
  • Record and publish data on ethnicity across the criminal justice system, and allow analysis and scrutiny as a way to “reduce the overrepresentation of people from BAME backgrounds throughout the criminal justice system” and introducing a principle of “explain or reform”
  • Develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities and review the funding of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure that it is adequate
  • Scrap the hostile environment by “making immigration detention an absolute last resort, introducing a 28-day time limit on detention, closing seven of the UK’s nine detention centres”; also establish a firewall to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement and repealing the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act [EVAW: Migrant women with insecure immigration status are often at a heightened risk of violence and exploitation, and less able to access specialist support, public services and justice]
  • Provide public health services, including maternity services, to people from the moment they arrive in the UK

The End Violence Against Women Coalition has written to Party Leaders putting specific questions around policies to end violence against women and girls and will publish any responses here.

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