Over 30 women’s groups today (2 July 2019) wrote to Conservative Party leader candidates Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson asking them to make specific pledges to tackle domestic and sexual violence if they become the next Prime Minister.
The organisations, who work supporting survivors of all forms of violence against women and girls across the UK, are asking Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson to:
- Ensure the draft Domestic Violence Bill becomes law and is delivered;
- Renew the cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy from 2020 onwards – this includes life-saving work from ensuring hospital there are domestic violence workers in A&E departments, to advising on the framework for the way schools teach Relationships & Sex Education, and critical work to end forced marriage and FGM;
- Give Prime Ministerial support to the Home Office and Ministry of Justice ‘Rape Review’ of falling prosecution rates as it publishes its recommendations this year, and ensure its recommendations are carried out;
- Assemble a cross-departmental team to look at how national government can recognise the critical value of local women’s support services and support work to ensure they are sustainable before any more are lost.
The letter says:
“We are living in an era of enormous changes in public recognition of and attitudes towards gender based violence. Reporting to the police, and help-seeking from local support services, are at their highest ever levels and the #MeToo movement has exposed the huge scale of sexual harassment and violence. We hope you share with us a real desire to drive these social changes further, so that a real end to violence against women and girls might be in sight.
“There is already a significant legislative and policy agenda under way to prevent and tackle gender-based violence, and we want to ask you as a candidate for Prime Minister to commit to maintaining and building on this work. The Home Office-led Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy is a critical framework, encouraging all government departments to play their part in ending abuse so that it is never again seen as purely a policing matter. It extends to the introduction of compulsory Relationships and Sex Education in 2020, the new White Paper on online harms, and much of the proposed content of the Domestic Abuse Bill, including the setting up of a critical new Commissioner in this area.
“At a time of enormous political change in the UK, we believe that violence against women and girls deserves political attention and leadership because of the damage it does to thousands of women’s and girls’ lives and all those who love them, which is why we have taken the time to write. We hope to hear from you soon.”
The women’s organisations hope to receive replies soon to their letters, and will publish any replies on the End Violence Against Women Coalition’s website.
Response from Jeremy Hunt 6th July 2019
Thank you for contacting me on behalf of 30 women’s organisations and campaigners.
The UK is a world leader in efforts to prevent violence against women and girls and as Prime Minister I would seek to continue the good progress that we have made. Although the UK’s exit from the EU may dominate the headlines, efforts to end sexual and gender‑based violence continue with the remarkable work that your organisations do.
As you will be aware, the UK’s £25 million programme What Works to Prevent Violence programme is the world’s largest investment in research focused on preventing violence against women and girls. I am proud of this but I also want to ensure that services in this country are properly funded. That is why I want a strong economy and growing businesses to support the services that the most vulnerable women in our society rely on.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is an historic piece of legislation which I fully support. I am aware, however, that conviction rates and prosecution for sexual offences have fallen. The Government has been collecting evidence as part of the violence against women and girls strategy refresh to inform future policy making and my ministerial colleagues are currently looking at the evidence. I look forward to the conclusions that will be published in due course.
There is always more that can be done and you can rest assured that you have my full commitment to work to end violence against women and girls should I become Prime Minister. Wherever you live in the country and whatever the abuse you face, everyone should have access to the services that they need.