A wide range of women’s organisations has written to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the Justice Secretary David Lidington appealing to them to “go further” with the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill which is set to come before Parliament early next year.
The groups, including Rape Crisis, the Women’s Institute, Mumsnet, Girlguiding and Everyday Sexism, are calling on the Government to include measures to tackle rape, sexual harassment, ‘upskirting’ and child protection in the Bill, and to ensure that abused women are protected no matter what their immigration status.
The open letter, which will be published by the End Violence Against Women Coalition on its website, comes as new government statistics recently revealed an estimated increase of 19% in sexual offences, and a 36% increase in stalking and harassment.
The letter recognises the Prime Minister’s mission to change the response to domestic violence as one of the “burning injustices” holding women back, and says the Bill is an opportunity:
“…to strengthen the criminal justice response to gender based violence, to demonstrate that as a country we are committed to an adequate level of protection from abuse as a right, and…to look ahead and ‘future proof’ law and practice as new forms of abuse emerge, especially online.”
Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
“We know this Parliament is heavily focused on ‘Brexit’ but attention to social problems as urgent as sexual and domestic violence cannot wait. Our Government should have a vision for how it can help create communities that do not tolerate these abuses, and this law is set to be a critical part of that. We implore the Government to make it the best it can be.
“The Bill will be in Parliament as we mark 100 years of women’s suffrage. That is a moment for considering how despite changes like the vote and some equal pay law, women’s inequality with men is persistent and is deeply related to the many forms of violence, harassment and control women and girls are subjected to just because we are women.
“We want to see this law used not only to increase the chance of justice for these crimes, but also to set a new standard of support and protection which ALL women should be able to access. Women subject to immigration control are currently usually left without the ability to access refuge provision and other forms of support – something which shames us all.
“Men are also subjected to violence and this Bill should aim to guarantee justice and protection to them too, but the fact remains that women are very disproportionately victimised, and the attitudes and behaviours common in these offences are deeply related to gender and ideas about how men and women should behave. Law, funding and leadership in this area should all set about disrupting and changing these.”
Additional supporters of what has been written in the letter to the Secretaries of State include:
Sandhya Sharma, Safety4Sisters
Shabana Baig, Manchester Rape Crisis
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Surviving Economic Abuse
Maureen Storey, Vida Sheffield