Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Pass the domestic violence bill

Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

February 20, 2017
4 min read

Sisters Uncut dye Trafalgar Square’s fountains red in a protest against cuts to domestic violence services. Credit: Sisters Uncut

On 16 December, the UK took one step closer to enshrining in law adequate support for women facing sexual and domestic violence. MPs voted to back a private member’s bill on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The bill will now pass to the committee stage and if successful will require the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, passing it into UK law.

At a time when the government continues to cut funding for services that support victims of sexual and domestic violence, more robust laws to protect these services are desperately needed. The situation has become so critical that last year two-thirds of women and children referred to domestic violence refuges were turned away, mostly due to a lack of bed space.

Ratifying the Istanbul Convention would oblige the government to provide adequate funding for these services. The convention is a comprehensive legal framework and set of actions for addressing violence against women and girls in all its forms. UN Women, the global champion for gender equality, has described the convention as a ‘a gold standard’ for tackling violence against women. Once ratified, the UK government would have to take all the necessary steps it sets out to prevent violence, protect women experiencing violence, prosecute perpetrators and ensure sufficient monitoring of violence against women.

The ratification is long overdue. The UK signed the convention in 2012 following its approval by the European Parliament but has done nothing to implement the agreement in law. Eighteen other countries have already ratified it, including Romania, Serbia, France and Poland.

Since 2012 the government has made some efforts to comply with the convention’s provisions – for instance, by criminalising female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. However, one of the major stipulations of the convention that has been woefully neglected is the adequate provision of support services for women facing domestic and sexual violence.

Significant numbers of cash-strapped refuges and rape crisis centres have been forced to close in recent years. By ratifying the convention, the government could finally be held to account for allowing the decimation of women’s support services. The I C Change campaign, the grassroots group spearheading the campaign for ratification, says: ‘The Istanbul Convention helps guarantee that we don’t have vital services disappear, but rather that we have a strong infrastructure of support. This infrastructure will allow women to thrive, rather than fight to survive.’

The End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW) believes that ratifying the convention will offer much-needed protection to specialist women’s services. Its co-director Rachel Krys says: ‘Specialist support services, particularly for black and minority ethnic women, are in crisis. If the Istanbul Convention was in place, we could use that legislation to argue against some of the funding cuts they face.’

But EVAW also points out that ratification alone will not automatically protect sexual and domestic violence support services from further cuts. ‘We’ll be pleased if the Istanbul Convention is ratified because we’ll have another way of holding the government to account,’ Rachel Krys explains. ‘However, preventing further cuts will also require an increase in public spending and a change in attitude. We need to prioritise ending violence against women and girls.’

Sisters Uncut, the feminist direct action group that has fought against cuts to domestic violence services, says that, ‘If the UK government had already ratified this convention, as promised, their fatal austerity cuts to domestic violence services would never have happened.’ The group is determined ‘to continue to use direct action to demand that both central and local government provide life-saving support for domestic violence survivors’.

There are many steps until the bill is enshrined in UK law. If it goes through, it will provide domestic and sexual violence support services with an unprecedented level of legal protection. Without this protection, funding for these services will inevitably keep diminishing as the government continues to pursue cuts in this area.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.


16