Today (8 June 2021) marks nine years since the UK signed the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the gold standard framework for tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG). EVAW, along with 32 organisations in the women’s sector and beyond, have signed letters calling on the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention by 8 June 2022
, that date marking a decade since the UK signed the Convention. Despite signing up to the international gold standard of protecting and upholding women’s rights nine years ago, the Government have so far resisted taking the important step of incorporating the Convention into our domestic laws.
The Istanbul Convention improves protection of domestic abuse victims in many ways, including ensuring we have the right level and geographic spread of accessible refuge spaces, and the Convention is clear that all victims should be supported regardless of migrant status. The Government intended for the passing of the Domestic Abuse Act to finally enable us to ratify the Convention, but by rejecting the amendment we proposed that would have secured equal protection and support for migrant women, despite cross-party support in both Houses of Parliament, they have not done so.
Andrea Simon, Director, says:
“The UK signed the Istanbul Convention in 2012 and it is appalling that, nine years later, the Government has failed to plug the gaps in protection and support for all survivors that prevent us from ratifying the Istanbul Convention. This is the result of the continuing hostile environment and if the Government is interested in seriously tackling violence against women and girls it needs to put an end to this ongoing two-tier system of protection for survivors and finally ratify the Istanbul Convention.”
We’ve spent the last year reckoning with what Imkaan has named the “dual pandemic”
of Covid-19 and the violence women and girls experience throughout their lives. We saw the huge public outcry about VAWG following the murder of Sarah Everard, and we know from the murders of minoritised and marginalised women such as Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman that VAWG and how it is reported is heavily linked to systemic racism, xenophobia, ableism and classism.
We are deeply concerned at how VAWG has been co-opted by the Government in the framing of the PCSC Bill when it is clear that the Bill does nothing to tackle the complex underlying causes of VAWG. Instead, measures such as longer prison sentences focus on policing and prisons for a minority of offenders rather than prevention. Such measures alone are unlikely to reduce violence and harm in practice and will create conditions that allow institutions to abuse their powers, perpetuate VAWG and re-traumatise survivors.
But we also know that this violence is not inevitable. To eradicate it takes both courage and bold leadership from those in positions of power. It requires an approach that seeks to shift the culture of misogyny, toxic masculinity and sexism that underpin most aspects of our society, whilst also funding and supporting policy initiatives that meet the immediate and long-term challenges we are facing. It’s time for the Government to listen to organisations who day in day out protect and support survivors, and ratify the Istanbul Convention so we can build a better future for women and girls.