The Prevention of Violence Against Women - Surely, A Priority - Rachel Dineley

25 Nov 2022

 

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women falls on 25 November 2022. What is the UK doing, in practice, to protect women?

The cost-of-living crisis is rapidly becoming a national emergency for domestic abuse victims. In some cases, it can mean the difference between life and death for domestic abuse victims who can't afford to leave perpetrators. The crisis will only get worse through the winter months, Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, has warned. Earlier this month she wrote to the Chancellor calling for a national emergency fund which all victims should be able to access. Stretched services are struggling to cope with additional demand and rising costs.

The issue is not only a national but an international one. The Istanbul Convention, agreed in August 2014, is an international treaty to create a legal framework at pan-European level to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women including domestic violence.

In June 2022 the UK became the 37th country to ratify it, and it came into force in the UK on 1 November. Why did it take so long? Should the UK not have been leading the way, from the outset?

Has the UK done all that it can to further the aims of the treaty? Sadly, it has not. As Amnesty International has reported, the Government reserved article 59 of the treaty opting out of protecting migrant women. In response, Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive at Amnesty International UK, said: "Amnesty welcomes the Istanbul Convention finally coming into force in the UK, but let's not kid ourselves that the Government has done enough to protect women from domestic violence.

"By quietly reserving article 59 of the treaty, the Government is still failing some of the most vulnerable women living in this country: migrant women.

"Not being obliged to provide support and protection to migrant women effectively reinforces the two-tier system of support for victims, as some remain discriminated against because of their migration status.

"The Government must immediately remove the reservation to this article and provide equal protection for every woman in need.

"All women, regardless of where they come from, deserve protection against violence."

What needs to be done for migrant women to be safe?

The risk faced by migrant women, who lack adequate documentation, and are unable to access state funds, has been underlined by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. They are particularly vulnerable to the risk of perpetrators of abuse exploiting their uncertain immigration status.

Now that the Istanbul Convention has been ratified, the UK needs to do better. It is crucial that those providing help and support in the health, social work and criminal justice sectors are made aware of its provisions to deliver the appropriate support and services to all victims, regardless of their immigration status. Perpetrators must also be held to account. Adequate funding will be essential.

Rachel Dineley, Diversity Champion

Chesham& Amersham Liberal Democrats