This week from the 10-17 October 2021, the End Violence Against Women Coalition joins human rights organisations Amnesty UK, Liberty, Stonewall, Freedom from Torture, the British Institute for Human Rights, Equally Ours, the Quakers and The Humanists in a week of action for human rights in the UK.
Our rights under attack
Last week at the Conservative party conference, the Home Secretary championed the Policing Bill as central to ensuring women and girls feel safe. But we strongly object to violence against women and girls being used to justify this law – here’s why:
- 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.
- By failing to tackle the root causes of male violence and prevent abuse, the Policing Bill will have little impact on violence against women.
- Increasing 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. Increasing their powers without radically overhauling how the police operate is dangerous to women.
We all have the right to be safe from male violence, no matter where we are from. But the Home Secretary’s Nationality and Borders Bill will criminalise women and girls crossing borders to seek safety – many of whom are survivors 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.
In the UK, our rights are protected by the Human Rights Act. This law is also the only legal tool that allows 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.
But the government plans to overhaul this essential law – which will impact how we challenge breaches of our basic 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.
What can we do to stop this?
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.