Thank you for speaking to me about the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill at GC.
I am very concerned that violence against women and girls (VAWG) remains a hugely significant problem across the UK, with up to 3 million women experiencing violence each year. It has been estimated that providing public services to victims of domestic violence and the lost economic output of women affected costs £15.8 billion annually in the UK.
Two women a week are killed in the UK by a current or former male partner, but the Government is overseeing the closure of many domestic violence shelters for women, removing the last line of hope and safety for victims of violence and abuse. I do not believe that women should continue to bear the brunt of Government cuts at the expense of their safety and well-being. That is why I believe the Government should honour its commitment and ratify the Istanbul Convention.
Although I fully support the premise of the Private Members’ Bill, due for debate on 16 December, unfortunately Private Members’ Bills can only become law if they are supported by the Government and this Government has not so far lent its support to this Bill. I’m afraid that I also have long standing commitments in Exeter that day which means I will not be in Westminster. But I have signed a letter jointly with my Labour MP colleagues calling on the Government to change its mind, support ratification and find Government time to debate and vote on the necessary legislation.
In 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, expressed concerns in her report to the UN Human Rights Council on her visit to the UK about the impact of austerity measures and devolution to local authorities on the provision of services to address violence against women. She noted that the Coalition Government had declared tackling violence against women and girls to be a national priority but called on the Government to “urgently address the funding crisis faced by the specialist violence against women and girls sector”.
In March 2016, the Government published its Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy for 2016-2020. While I welcome the steps outlined in the strategy, I want to see the commitments made to vulnerable women and girls followed through, so that they do not just remain as warm words.
I believe we need to do more to address VAWG at home as well as abroad. At the general election I stood on a manifesto which included commitments to introduce a Violence against Women and Girls Bill, appoint a commissioner to set minimum standards in tackling domestic and sexual violence and to provide more stable funding for women’s refuges and Rape Crisis Centres. I also believe that the current Government should introduce compulsory and universal education programmes on healthy relationships for our children.
I can assure you that I will continue to support steps to tackle violence against women and girls in the UK and worldwide and my colleagues and I will continue to pressure the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
I hope that this is helpful, but if you have any further questions or concerns then please don’t hesitate to get back in touch.
With very best wishes,
Ben Bradshaw MP
Peter Walker and Libby Brooks: MPs ask May to ratify international accord on violence against women [Guardian 08 December 2016]