Update: the Liberal Democrats responded to our letter after we published this statement. Read their response here.
With just a week to go before the general election, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have responded to questions presented by a coalition of women’s organisations working to end violence against women in all its forms (including rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, stalking, FGM and trafficking).
The End Violence Against Women Coalition today (1 June) publishes the full responses online. The questions asked what they would do, if elected, to ensure those facing violence were guaranteed to get support; to improve the police and courts response to abuse; to improve the way other public services respond to victims; and to ensure women’s human rights are protected during Brexit.
Theresa May’s response from the Conservative Party says that if re-elected, they will create a Domestic Violence Commissioner to scrutinise policy, practice and spending, and introduce a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill which will bring together all civil and criminal prevention and protection orders. The letter says:
“If elected on 8 June, Theresa May’s Conservatives will create a domestic violence and abuse commissioner in law, to stand up for victims and survivors, monitor the response to domestic violence and abuse and to hold the police and the criminal justice system to account.”
[we will] “…review the funding for refuges and ensure that victims who have lifetime tenancies and flee violence are able to secure a new lifetime tenancy automatically.”
The letter also commits to compulsory Relationships and Sex Education in all schools, and to focusing on tackling the impact of domestic violence on children. It does not mention rights and support for women in the asylum and immigration systems in the UK, support for sexual violence survivors, or the tax credits ‘rape clause’. There is a broad assurance that, while the Human Rights Act will be remain in place only until Brexit is complete, “We will, in fact strengthen the rights of women and girls as we leave the EU.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s response from the Labour Party says that if elected they would create a violence against women commissioner (addressing multiple forms of violence) and provide stable funding for support services. The letter says:
“A Labour government will appoint a new commissioner to enforce minimum standards in tackling domestic and sexual violence. A Violence Against Women Commissioner would also provide stable central funding for refuges and rape crisis centres and coordinate best practice across local authorities so no community is left without these vital services.”
The letter acknowledges the “human cost” of cuts to local government and local, independent women-led support services. It pledges to scrap the child tax credits ‘rape clause’, compulsory Relationships and Sex Education in all schools, maintain the Human Rights Act, and on women who have suffered abuse and who seek asylum in the UK it says:
“Our commitment to eliminating abuse will extend to women fleeing conflict, we will make sure that women who have risked their lives are treated fairly when they arrive. This means ensuring that local authorities have adequate resources to provide survivors of torture or rape the support they need.”
The letter has less detail on police and courts measures. It has no proposal on changing law in this area, and little on online abuse.
The EVAW Coalition also wrote to the leader of the Lib Dems and the leader of the SNP in Westminster, and has not yet received replies. If and when they arrive they will be added to this statement and our website.
The parties’ responses follow the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW)’s publication of an in-depth review of the party manifestos’ many and prominent pledges on ending abuse. The EVAW Coalition is encouraging voters to contact their local candidates before 8 June in order to secure commitments on dedicated work to end abuse, and has made advice on finding candidates and a suggested email available.
End Violence Against Women Coalition Co-Director Sarah Green said:
“We welcome firm commitments to ending violence against women and girls in these letters from the Labour and Conservative Parties. It is vital that the next government prioritises dedicated work to respond to all forms of abuse, as well as ensuring that steps are taken to prevent violence against women and girls in the first place – such as making high quality Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in all UK schools.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition has published its own ‘Priorities for Government’, addressed to the next Government, which calls for reform across the criminal justice system and other public services, sustainable funding for life-saving support services, and the protection of rights for women as Britain withdraws from the EU during Brexit.
The EVAW Coalition has also created a toolkit for supporters whom it is encouraging to contact their local Parliamentary candidates to ask them to pledge to work end all forms of violence against women and girls.