thBriefing for International Women’s Day debate 8 March 2007
Women, Justice and Gender Equality in the UK
The End Violence Against Women (EVAW) campaign is a large coalition of more than 50 individuals and organisations whose vision is of a society where women can live their lives free from violence and the fear of violence. We are calling for the UK Government to develop a cross-departmental strategy to end violence against women, with prevention a central pillar.
The Fawcett Society is the UK‟s leading campaign for equality between women and men. Our
vision is of a society in which women and men enjoy equality at work, at home and in public life. Fawcett‟s Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice System, a unique inquiry bringing together experts from all parts of the system, examines the way women are treated as victims, offenders and defendants and as practitioners. Fawcett is a member of EVAW.
Violence against women – a human rights violation
On International Women‟s Day, women‟s achievements across the globe are celebrated. At home
we look forward to the most radical change to sex discrimination law in 30 years, the Gender Equality Duty, coming into force in less than one month.
However, International Women‟s Day is also an important time to reflect on significant inequalities
that women experience. Violence against women is, according to Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, “.the most atrocious manifestation of the systemic discrimination and inequality women continue to face, in law and in their everyday lives, around the world”. Globally, at least one in 1every three women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
Violence against women cuts across boundaries of culture, ethnicity, age, wealth and geography, affecting women of all ages and all backgrounds in every corner of the globe, and every walk of life. It includes; rape and sexual violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, stalking, sexual exploitation, crimes in the name of „honour‟, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Rather than rare and unusual, violence is common in the lives of women and girls, and rather than fearing strangers, it is the men closer to home who represent the greatest threat to women‟s safety and security. The facts about violence against women in the UK are stark:
; Almost half of women in England and Wales experience at least one incident of domestic 2violence, sexual assault or stalking in their lifetime.
; Convictions for rape are falling; just 5.3% of rapes reported to the police result in 34conviction. This is one of the lowest conviction rates for rape in Europe. 5; Women represent around 85% of victims of forced marriage.
1 E, L Heise, M Ellsberg, M Gottemoeller, 1999 2 S Walby and J Allen, Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey,
Home Office, 2004 3 Source: Home Office 4 L Kelly and L Regan, Rape: Still a forgotten issue, 2003 5 Forced Marriage: A Wrong not a Right, Home Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 2005
; It is estimated that 86,000 women in the UK have undergone female genital mutilation 6(fgm) and around 7000 girls under 16 are currently at risk.
There are enormous social and financial costs of violence against women. Violence causes physical damage ranging from cuts and bruises to miscarriages, broken bones, permanent disability and death. Sexual offences bring additional risks of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Violence can also cause lasting psychological harm to women and their children who witness assaults. Government research has assessed the cost of domestic violence alone to the public purse at ?6 billion a year and placed a figure on the costs associated 7with individual pain and suffering at ?17 billion pounds.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women defines violence against women to mean “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life".
Violence against women is a violation of women‟s fundamental human rights;
; The right not to be treated in an inhuman and degrading way,
; The right to respect for private and family life (including the right to physical and
; The right to life.
What is the Government doing?
Each year, EVAW carries out an assessment of government initiatives to end violence against 8women in a strategic and integrated way. In its most recent report, Making the Grade? 2006, the
Government scored just 2 out of 10 overall.
Key findings of the report include:
; Across government departments work on violence against women is “patchy” and not
joined up. There is little evidence of work between government departments resulting in a
failure to share vital information.
; Many parts of government still perceive violence against women as limited to domestic
violence, resulting in a failure to develop policies and provide resources for other forms of
; Services for victims are seriously under-funded and there is a post-code lottery facing
women who need support. In 1984 there were 68 women-only rape crisis centres or
helplines compared with 37 in England and Wales today.
; Ethnic minority women face additional forms of violence and more barriers to accessing
support services. And, through the rule of „no recourse‟ to public funds, those with
insecure immigration status are denied protections and safety available to other women.
; No part of government has yet begun to address seriously the prevention of violence
against women, for example there is minimal work with children and young people to
challenge attitudes that tolerate violence against women. A recent Amnesty International
UK poll found that one in three people partially or wholly blame a woman for being raped if
she had flirted, been drinking or because of the clothes she was wearing.
; An ICM poll for EVAW showed that 42% of young people know girls whose boyfriends
have hit them. The score of just one out of ten for the Department for Education and Skills
is of particular concern as it has a key role to play in shaping attitudes towards healthy
relationships and providing information for young people.
; The lack of joined up policy means that connections are not being made with other
existing high-profile government strategies, including those on social exclusion, drugs and
alcohol, child poverty, anti-social behaviour and teen pregnancy.
A strategic approach to ending violence against women
6 www.forwarduk.org.uk 7 S Walby, The Cost of Domestic Violence 8 End Violence Against Women, Making the Grade? The second annual independent analysis of Government initiatives on violence against women, November 2006
There are many good initiatives on specific forms of violence against women including specialist domestic violence courts, a National Domestic Violence Action Plan and a Rape Action Plan. However good initiatives are being undermined by the lack of a strategic approach, with many gaps in policies and services and a lack of communication between agencies and between and within government departments. The benefits of a strategic approach are increasingly being recognised. In London, a domestic violence strategy has cut domestic homicides in the capital by 9one third since 2001. The CPS and Metropolitan Police are both developing strategies on violence against women and other public bodies are likely to follow suit. And the Scottish Executive is developing a strategic framework on violence against women.
thIn 2005 marking the 10 anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that “Governments should accelerate their efforts towards implementation of comprehensive strategies against violence, adequately funded and with a clear time-frame.”
EVAW and Fawcett are calling for the Government to build on the good work that is going on and fulfil its international obligations by developing a cross-departmental strategy to end violence against women with prevention a central pillar.
An integrated strategy on violence against women would:
; Study the causes, consequences and nature of violence against women.
; Conduct education and public information programmes that raise awareness on the
causes and nature of violence against women.
; Ensure that accessible, just and effective criminal and civil remedies are in force against
all forms of violence against women.
; Offer training for key agencies on the causes of violence, its impact and how to improve
the effectiveness of their responses.
; Ensure full access to, and provision of, emergency, legal, support and rehabilitation
services for all women.
; Ensure that all agencies – the police, the health service, the courts, social services,
education etc – work together to improve responses to female victims of violence.
; Ensure adequate resources are available to implement all elements of a strategy
; Ensure the violence against women policy agenda is integrated into all relevant
Government agendas such as Respect, Teenage Pregnancy and Sure Start.
The Gender Equality Duty thThe new Gender Equality Duty (GED) comes into force from 6 April. This is the most radical
change to sex discrimination law in 30 years and follows in the footsteps of similar duties to 10promote equality on the grounds of race and disability. The GED will, for the first time, mean that
public bodies in England, Wales and Scotland must show that they are taking active steps to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination and harassment and promote equality between women and men. This is known as the „general duty‟ and will apply to some voluntary and private 11organisations as well.
Many public bodies (including government departments, local councils, NHS Trusts, police forces and schools) will also have specific duties such as assessing the different impact of policies on
women and men and publishing Gender Equality Schemes by 30th April 2007. The Schemes
must set out objectives, focusing on the most serious forms of gender inequality, and say what 12action will be taken to meet their objectives.
How can the GED address violence against women?
; Health authorities, police forces, schools and other public bodies will need to consider the
scale, scope and cost of violence against women. They will need to set objectives for
addressing violence in consultation with stakeholders such as rape crisis centres and
9 Mayor of London, Second London Domestic Violence Strategy, 2005 10 The Gender Equality Duty is contained in the Equality Act 2006 11 A public body or public authority is defined in the Act as „any person who has functions of a public nature‟ 12 A Code of Practice for Great Britain sets out further details and can be found on the EOC website at www.eoc.org.uk. There will be a separate Code of Practice for devolved bodies in Scotland.
; Local authorities will need to consider the different impact of funding decisions on women
and men. E.g. if a council cuts the funding of a rape crisis centre, there will be a greater
negative impact on women than men.
; Young people live in an environment where there are high levels of violence against 13women. Schools, colleges and universities will need to consider how they can support 14students who are victims of gender-based violence. PSHE could play a crucial role in
prevention e.g. looking at issues around consent to sex or identifying patterns of forced
marriage and combating them.
15; The health-related cost of each rape case is estimated at ?73,487. Local health services
need to recognise the extent to which VAW is a factor in women‟s physical and mental ill-
health, teenage pregnancy, and substance misuse and develop policies to address this.
; Public bodies should work with the equality duties together so that they meet the needs of
ethnic minority and disabled women.
The Commission for Equality and Human Rights
It is essential that addressing violence against women is a priority for the new CEHR when it starts work in October, there will be no legacy of work on gender-based violence from the existing equality commissions. This will create a challenge but also provide an opportunity for this new body to develop new and innovative ways of working to end violence against women. Human rights should be the underpinning framework for the CEHR and human rights principles can mediate where there may be competing rights between different equality strands.
Under the Equality Act 2006, the CEHR has a duty to promote good relations between individuals and groups across all the equality strands with race and religion as priorities. Violence is the exemplar of „poor relations‟ and applies to all equality strands and the development of a well-
resourced programme of work to address „good relations‟ on the basis of gender is needed.
Indeed, there are many examples of voluntary agencies working to promote good relations such as the work WOMANKIND Worldwide are carrying out in secondary schools on violence against women, including encouraging young people to recognise and challenge sexual bullying and 16harassment.
For further information about EVAW go to www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk or email
Holly Dustin at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 7 033 1559.
For further information about the Fawcett Society go to www.fawcettsociety.org.uk or email
Jon Collins at email@example.com or telephone 0207 253 2598.
13 Findings of an ICM poll for EVAW published in November 2006 14 Personal Social and Health Education 15 A Home Office Report - The Economic and social costs of crime against individuals and households 2003-04 16 For more information go to www.womankind.org.uk