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.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
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
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.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill