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Violence against Women and Girls

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HL Paper 106
HC 594
House of Lords
House of Commons
Joint Committee on Human
Rights
Violence against
women and girls
Sixth Report of Session 2014–15
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HL Paper 106
HC 594
Published on 19 February 2015
by authority of the House of Commons
London: The Stationery Office Limited
House of Lords
House of Commons
Joint Committee on Human
Rights
Violence against
women and girls
Sixth Report of Session 2014–15
Report, together with formal minutes and
appendices
Ordered by the House of Lords
to be printed 28 January 2015
Ordered by the House of Commons
to be printed 28 January 2015
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Joint Committee on Human Rights
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is appointed by the House of Lords and
the House of Commons to consider matters relating to human rights in the
United Kingdom (but excluding consideration of individual cases); proposals for
remedial orders, draft remedial orders and remedial orders.
The Joint Committee has a maximum of six Members appointed by each House,
of whom the quorum for any formal proceedings is two from each House.
Current membership
HOUSE OF LORDS HOUSE OF COMMONS
Baroness Berridge (Conservative)
Baroness Buscombe (Conservative)
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws (Labour)
Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)
Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Labour)
Baroness O’Loan (Crossbench)
Dr Hywel Francis MP (Labour, Aberavon) (Chair)
Mr Robert Buckland MP (Conservative, South Swindon)
Sir Edward Garnier MP (Conservative, Harborough)
Gareth Johnson MP (Conservative, Dartford)
Mr Virendra Sharma MP (Labour, Ealing Southall)
Sarah Teather MP (Liberal Democrat, Brent Central)
Powers
The Committee has the power to require the submission of written evidence and
documents, to examine witnesses, to meet at any time (except when Parliament
is prorogued or dissolved), to adjourn from place to place, to appoint specialist
advisers, and to make Reports to both Houses. The Lords Committee has power
to agree with the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman.
Publications
The Reports and evidence of the Joint Committee are published by The
Stationery Office by Order of the two Houses. All publications of the Committee
(including press notices) are on the internet at http://www.parliament.uk/jchr
Current Staff
The current staff of the Committee is: Mike Hennessy (Commons Clerk), Megan
Conway (Lords Clerk), Murray Hunt (Legal Adviser), Leslie Young (Senior
Committee Assistant) Michelle Owens (Committee Assistant), and Keith Pryke
(Office Support Assistant).
Contacts
All correspondence should be addressed to The Clerk of the Joint Committee on
Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Commons London SW1A 0AA. The
telephone number for general inquiries is: 020 7219 2797; the Committee's e-
mail address is jchr@parliament.uk
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 1
Contents
Report Page
Summary 3
1 Introduction 5
Our inquiry 5
What is violence against women and girls? 5
The Istanbul Convention 6
United Kingdom’s Obligations 7
Law, policy and practice 7
Culture 8
2 Integrated policies 9
Comprehensive and co-ordinated policies (Article 7) 9
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 9
3 Prevention 12
Awareness raising (Article 13) 12
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 12
Education (Article 14) 16
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 16
Training of professionals (Article 15) 21
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 21
Participation of the private sector and media (Article 17) 22
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 23
4 Protection and support 29
Specialist support service (Article 22) 29
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 29
Spare Room Subsidy 34
5 Substantive law 36
Psychological violence (Article 33) 36
How well is the law complying with the Istanbul Convention? 36
Legal aid (Article 57) 38
How well is the law complying with and the policy and practice of the UK
fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul Convention? 39
Universal Credit 40
Unacceptable justifications for crimes, including crimes committed in the name of
socalled “honour” (Article 42) 42
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2 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
How well is the practice of the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under
the Istanbul Convention? 43
6 Investigation, prosecution, procedural law and protective measures 45
Immediate response, prevention and protection (Article 50) 45
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 45
Risk assessment and risk management (Article 51) 47
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 47
Investigations and evidence (Article 54) 49
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 49
Ex parte and ex officio proceedings (Article 55) 50
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 51
7 Immigration and asylum 53
Residence status (Article 59) 53
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 53
Gender based asylum claims (Article 60) 55
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention? 56
8 Ratification 61
Ratification of the Istanbul Convention 61
Conclusions and recommendations 63
Declaration of Lords’ Interests 70
Formal Minutes 71
Witnesses 72
Published written evidence 74
Appendix 1: Summary of online forum on violence against women and girls 76
Appendix 2: Note of the informal meeting with the Women’s Aid Young People
Advisory Panel 85
Appendix 3: Summary of responses to the survey ‘Staying Safe—Teaching sex,
relationships and consent in the UK’ run by the National Union of Students 89
List of Reports from the Committee during the current Parliament 98
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 3
Summary
“(V)iolence against women and girls is the most pervasive human rights violation we face
globally, whether in times of peace, conflict or post-conflict transition”. (Ms Rashida Manjoo,
UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.)1
We undertook this inquiry to examine the United Kingdom’s progress towards ratification
of the Istanbul Convention. In doing so, we have heard how domestic violence transcends
races, religions, communities and cultures. The scale, pervasive nature, and seemingly cross-
cultural ignorance, of violence against women and girls is deeply troubling to us.
Overall we think the UK is in a good position to be able to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
The Home Secretary has shown personal commitment to this. Only one legislative change
regarding jurisdiction is necessary in order to ratify, although several changes in practice are
required to fulfil the Convention’s positive obligations. Our key concern is that the Inter-
Ministerial Group has insufficient powers. In addition, we have more focused concerns as
set out below.
We heard a great deal of evidence regarding the importance of education as part of
preventing violence against women and girls. We recommend that the Government
urgently prioritises prevention programmes. Prevention programmes need to be targeted
and specific to communities and victims, based on evidence. We also recommend that all
schools could, and should, play a greater role in tackling cultural attitudes through a
requirement to teach issues surrounding gender equality and violence. This would also help
prevent the use of unacceptable cultural justifications for such crimes across British culture.
We heard evidence about the importance of specialist local services to victims of violence
against women and girls. In January 2014, we heard assurances from the Prime Minister
that the Government is happy to look at points raised by women’s organisations
regarding locally delivered women’s services.2 However, witnesses told us a different story.
We are concerned that devolving decisions about provision to local authorities has left
women with specific needs unable to access vital help. We found that it was often those most
in need and in the most vulnerable positions that were least well served. We recommend
that the Government adopt a national co-ordinating role for the provision of specialist
support services.
The Government has introduced an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill which would
create a specific criminal offence for psychological or coercive control. We are not
convinced that the creation of an offence alone will result in a change of culture and we
recommend that the Government consider a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and a
review of training for professionals within the Criminal Justice System if Parliament creates
this new specific offence. We also have concerns regarding how victims of such an offence
would provide the evidence required to qualify for civil legal aid and are further concerned
that the Government’s Universal Credit roll-out has not sufficiently addressed the concerns
1 Q 5
2 Oral evidence taken before the House of Commons Liaison Committee, 14 January (Session 2013–14), Q 29–30
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4 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
of women’s organisations regarding the vulnerability of victims of domestic violence:
financial control is a component of coercive control.
We are also troubled to hear of the prevalence of unacceptable justifications for crimes,
including crimes committed in the name of so-called “honour”. We believe this occurs in
many cultures in Britain, and the Government has not done enough to tackle this.
Education is a key preventative tool that the Government is not using effectively. We
recommend that a standalone inquiry into these crimes is necessary.
HMIC’s finding that police forces responding to calls concerning domestic violence
collected inadequate evidence was worrying. We also heard about the devastating or fatal
impact resulting from inadequate response or risk assessment. It is the responsibility of the
police to ensure they do all in their power to protect and assist those at risk.
We heard particular concerns regarding victims with insecure immigration status, asylum
seekers or refugees. These women and girls are often overlooked. Immigration policy is
developed separately from policy about violence against women and girls. We urge the
Government to address the gap in service provision for women with insecure immigration
status and to review the use of the detained fast track process for victims of violence against
women and girls.
Finally we call on the Government to prioritise ratification of the Istanbul Convention by
putting the final legislative changes required (regarding jurisdiction) before this Parliament.
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 5
1 Introduction
Our inquiry
1. We undertook this inquiry to examine the United Kingdom’s progress towards
ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence
against women and domestic violence (the “Istanbul Convention”). The Government
signed the Istanbul Convention on 8 June 2012 yet has not to date ratified the Convention.
The Istanbul Convention came into force on 1 August 2014.
2. We took oral evidence throughout 2014 from the Government, individuals and non-
governmental organisations on prevention of violence against women and girls, support
services for victims, prosecuting violence against women and girls, the immigration and
asylum system as well as the role of the media. We took evidence from 30 witnesses listed
in Appendix 1, as well as receiving 59 written submissions and correspondence. We are
grateful to all those who gave evidence, and also acknowledge the assistance of our
specialist advisers, Shazia Choudhry, Reader in Law at Queen Mary, University of London
and Dr Nicole Westmarland, Professor at Durham University.
What is violence against women and girls?
3. There is no legal definition of violence against women and girls or domestic violence in
the UK. In this Report we use the same broad definition of domestic violence and abuse as
the Government:
The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is: any incident or
pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse
between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family
members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not
limited to: psychological; physical; sexual; financial; and emotional.3
4. The Istanbul Convention, however, covers all forms of violence against women and girls,
not just that which occurs in the domestic sphere. This includes offences such as rape and
stalking.
5. The Istanbul Convention and the definition of domestic violence and abuse are broad
and we were unable to explore every area. We did not look in detail at the Government’s
policy on female genital mutilation (FGM) as the Commons Home Affairs Committee
recently did.4 We also received evidence regarding the law on prostitution, and while we
acknowledge the debate for a review of the law on prostitution we did not look into this as
part of our inquiry, believing it is a topic that would require more time than our inquiry
could give.
3 Domestic violence and abuse: https://www.gov.uk/domestic-violence-and-abuse#domestic-violence-and-abuse-new-
definition [accessed 4 January 2015]
4 Home Affairs Committee: Female genital mutilation: the case for a national action plan (Second Report, Session
2014–15, HC 201)
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6 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
The Istanbul Convention
6. Our Report does not seek to explore the merit of the contents of the Istanbul
Convention because the UK Government has signed the Convention. The Government, in
signing the Convention, has expressed its intent of abiding by it. Our Report addresses the
question: how well is UK law complying with the Istanbul Convention and how well is the
Government able to fulfil the positive obligations of the Convention before the
Government starts the formal ratification process?
7. The Istanbul Convention is an international treaty. The Constitutional Reform and
Governance Act 2010 provides statutory footing for the formal process of treaty
ratification, formerly the Ponsonby Rule. Once the Government has signed a treaty, the
Government must then set about making sure that the UK complies with the treaty
before ratifying it, making any necessary changes to law or practice. Once done, the
Government lays the treaty before Parliament in the form of a Command Paper5).6 If
neither House resolves that the treaty should not be ratified, the treaty is ratified by the
Government and, at that point, the treaty obligations become binding on the UK. A
violation of a treaty obligation is an internationally wrongful act which has serious
consequences for the State in international law. If the Istanbul Convention were ratified,
the UK’s law, policy and practice would become subject to the law of treaties and the
principle of pacta sunt servanda: that is the principle, codified in the Vienna Convention
on the Law of Treaties, that States enter into international agreements and implement
those obligations in good faith.
8. If the UK were to ratify the Istanbul Convention, the Convention would have a strong
indirect effect on the UK legal system in two ways.7 First, as a ratified treaty it could be
cited by the UK Courts as persuasive authority with regard to legal decision-making and
the establishment of legal principles and, furthermore, where there is some ambiguity as to
what the law requires, the courts will assume that the law should be interpreted in a way
that complies with the United Kingdom’s international obligations; second, via the
European Court of Human Rights which now regularly refers to International and
European Conventions as part of the process of legal reasoning and the establishment of
principles in its case law.8 As the UK Courts are required by the Human Rights Act 1998 to
take account of ECtHR jurisprudence and the Government is bound by its judgments in
cases against the UK, the terms of the Convention could have a strong indirect effect on the
UK legal system
9. By ratifying the Istanbul Convention, there would be a strong inference that UK law is
compliant with the treaty. The Government can enter reservations with regard to any
terms of the treaty which it feels are incompatible with domestic law. Upon ratification of
the Istanbul Convention, the UK Government would be undertaking to fulfil the positive
5 Command Papers are the collective name given to different types of papers prepared by the Government and
presented to Parliament with the words “presented to Parliament by Command of His/Her Majesty”.
6 Both Houses have 21 days to resolve that the treaty should not be ratified.
7 Only incorporation of the Treaty into UK law would achieve the direct effect of its provisions in the UK’s legal
system.
8 See, for example, the recent case of National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers v UK (Application no.
31045/10, 8 September 2014), in which the European Court of Human Rights referred to provisions of the European
Social Charter and International Labour Organisation Convention No. 87 when deciding whether secondary strike
action comes within the scope of freedom of association in Article 11 of the ECHR.
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 7
obligations in the Convention. The positive obligations of the Convention on states are to
exercise due diligence to prevent and protect against violence against women, to prosecute
and punish perpetrators and to provide reparations for victims. As the Istanbul
Convention is already in force, these obligations would commence immediately. We
discuss the ratification of the Convention in Chapter 8. Throughout this Report we point
out in recommendations where the Government would need to make changes to policy
and practice in order to fulfil the Convention’s positive obligations.
United Kingdom’s Obligations
10. The United Kingdom is a signatory to the Istanbul Convention as a whole. The UK
Government is responsible for ratifying and implementing the Istanbul Convention yet
devolved administrations, local authorities and others are responsible for some areas of law
and policy covered by the Istanbul Convention.9 For example, in Scotland, the Cabinet
Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, Alex Neil MSP, is
responsible for equality10 and the Scottish government has its own Strategy to Address
Violence Against Women and Girls.11 The Scottish Parliament has an Equal Opportunities
Committee that looked at FGM in 2014.12 In Wales, Lesley Griffiths AM is the Minister
responsible for “Equality covering the protected characteristics under the Equality Act
2010 and human rights in relation to UN and EU Conventions” in the Welsh Executive.13
In 2014, the Welsh Government introduced the Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse
and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill.14 The First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive,
Peter Robinson MLA, oversees the Equality and Human Rights Unit. We are also aware
that the London Assembly has a Pan-London Strategy on Violence against Women and
Girls.15 It is clear that, whilst the UK Government is responsible for the UK’s compliance
with the Istanbul Convention, it is not able to control all aspects of policy in this area. In
this Report we look at the tensions between fulfilling our international obligations and
devolution, focusing specifically on the provision of specialist services in Chapter 4.
Law, policy and practice
11. There are three different areas which require action under the Istanbul Convention:
a) law;
b) policy; and
9 The Scotland Act 1998, Government of Wales Act 1998 and Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Northern Ireland
Act 1998 set out the powers that are devolved from the UK Government to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and
Northern Irish Assemblies and their associated executive bodies.
10 Violence against Women and Girls – Strategy Documents:
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Equality/violence-women/strategydocuments [accessed 4 January 2015]
11 Ministers of Law Officers: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps/ministers-and-law-officers.aspx [accessed 4
January 2015]
12 Female Genital Mutilation: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/72423.aspx
[accessed 4 January 2015]
13 Lesley Griffiths AM: http://wales.gov.uk/about/cabinet/cabinetm/lesleygriffiths?lang=en [accessed 4 January 2015]
14 Violence against women and domestic abuse: http://wales.gov.uk/topics/people-and-
communities/communities/safety/domesticabuse/?lang=en [accessed 9 January 2015]
15 Violence against women and girls: https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/policing-crime/our-work/violence-against-
women-girls [accessed 4 January 2015]
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8 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
c) practice.
12. We recognise the size of the task faced by the Government in tackling violence against
women and girls. The Government has made some necessary legislative changes in order
for the UK to comply with the Istanbul Convention (for example the criminalisation of
forced marriage) but changes in practice and culture can be more difficult to achieve.16
Culture
13. Throughout our inquiry we have heard about the experiences of a wide range of
different groups of women including those with particular needs, for example women
seeking asylum or refugees, women with learning difficulties, women from black and
minority ethnic communities and women from communities of belief or religion. We
agree however with the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales: “In focusing
on specific cultural practices which lead to violence against women there is a risk of
forgetting that violence against women is a problem shared across cultures in the UK”.17
We share the concern of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes
and consequences, Rashida Manjoo:
It is crucial to acknowledge that violence, inequality and discrimination does not
occur solely on the basis of gender, and that women and girls face multiple forms of
discrimination on the basis of their race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and other factors,
including their immigration status. Multiple forms of discrimination have an impact
on women’s experiences of violence, their perceptions of those experiences, and their
ability to seek and receive support.18
16 Sections 120 and 121 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 criminalised the breaching of a
forced marriage protection order and of using conduct which causes someone to enter into a forced marriage.
Article 5 of The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Commencement No.2, Transitional and
Transitory Provisions) Order 2014 brought these two sections into force on 16 June 2014.
17 Written evidence from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (VAW0035)
18 Special Rapporteur on violence against women finalizes country mission to the United Kingdom and calls for urgent
action to address the accountability deficit and also the adverse impacts of changes in funding and services.
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14514& [accessed 14 January 2015]
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 9
2 Integrated policies
Comprehensive and co-ordinated policies (Article 7)
14. Article 7 of the Istanbul Convention requires the UK to have co-ordinated policies.
This requirement crosses Governmental departments, agencies and bodies.
Article 7—Comprehensive and coordinated policies
1 Parties shall take the necessary legislative and other measures to adopt and implement Statewide
effective, comprehensive and coordinated policies encompassing all relevant measures to prevent
and combat all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention and offer a holistic
response to violence against women.
2 Parties shall ensure that policies referred to in paragraph 1 place the rights of the victim at the
centre of all measures and are implemented by way of effective cooperation among all relevant
agencies, institutions and organisations.
3 Measures taken pursuant to this article shall involve, where appropriate, all relevant actors, such as
government agencies, the national, regional and local parliaments and authorities, national human
rights institutions and civil society organisations.
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention?
15. The Government acknowledges the need for comprehensive and co-ordinated policies.
To this end, the Government has a cross-departmental Action Plan, A Call to End Violence
against Women and Girls, published by the Home Office. The Action Plan says that there
is: “Commitment right across Government with activity co-ordinated across Departments
overseen by an Inter-Ministerial Group chaired by the Home Secretary”.19 We understand
that the Inter-Ministerial Group meets quarterly.20
16. Some witnesses called for an independent, national co-ordinating body for the purpose
of transparency, greater data collection and holding departments to account.21 We note this
argument but it was more within the parameters of this inquiry to focus on what the
Government is doing regarding the co-ordination and delivery of its policy.
17. Witnesses argued that there was a lack of accountability if departments did not deliver
against the Action Plan.22 The End Violence against Women Coalition said: “The
Department for Education, key to taking forward prevention measures, has yet to deliver
on its role in a comprehensive prevention strategy”.23
19 A Call to End Violence against Women and Girls, Action Plan 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287758/VAWG_Action_Plan.pdf
[accessed 24 December 2014]
20 HC Deb, 15 April 2013, col 54W [Commons written answer]
21 Written evidence from EHRC (VAW0057) and Eaves for Women (VAW0008)
22 See, for example, written evidence from Women’s Aid (VAW0018)
23 Written evidence from End Violence Against Women Coalition (VAW0053)
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10 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
18. Witnesses also criticised the Government for the separate development of policy for
violence against women and girls and policy for immigration. Natasha Walter, Director of
Women for Refugee Women, said:
from the outside, we do not see evidence of joined-up thinking. For instance, the
Home Office has the initiative to tackle FGM in the UK, but we do not see anything
coming out of the Home Office about how that might affect women seeking asylum
from the threat of FGM for their daughters […] there are such good initiatives going
on, and yet they are not being carried through into the asylum process.24
19. Witnesses criticised the Inter-Ministerial Group for not taking an holistic approach
towards ending violence against women and girls due to a lack of representation from
immigration officials. Anna Musgrave, Women’s Advocacy and Influencing Officer from
Refugee Council, said: “representation from UK Visas and Immigration has been, in the
main, very poor. I sit on the groups and I very rarely see anybody in those meetings who I
recognise.”25Asylum Aid recommended that the Home Secretary should ensure that there
is regular representation from the Immigration Minister and UKVI at the appropriate level
at all meetings discussing violence against women and girls.26
20. Chris Green, Director of White Ribbon Campaign, said: “the inter-ministerial group is
good but does not go far enough. We are a grassroots organisation on the ground, and we
do not see that group making any significant difference to our work.”27
21. Witnesses were also concerned that the Inter-Ministerial Group and Action Plan only
addressed England and Wales, despite the Istanbul Convention requiring a UK-wide
response.28
22. The Home Secretary is responsible within Government for the Action Plan to end
violence against women and girls and the civil servants who co-ordinate Government
action to deliver the plan are based in the Home Office. We would have liked to have taken
oral evidence from the Home Secretary but it was the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, the
Minister for Women and Equalities, who came to give evidence. The Rt Hon Nicky
Morgan MP has other responsibilities across Government as Secretary of State for
Education and Minister for Equalities but is not one of the co-signatories of the Action
Plan: the former Minister for Crime Prevention (Norman Baker MP) is. The position of
Minister for Women has moved between four departments in the course of this
Parliament.29
23. We put to the Minister for Women whether it would improve the co-ordination of
policy on violence against women and girls if there were a standalone post of Minister for
Women. She said: “My worry, if you had one Minister with responsibility for it, would be
that they would not have the clout in different Departments to quiz the civil servants, hold
24 Q 86
25 Ibid.
26 Written evidence from Asylum Aid (VAW0009)
27 Q 55
28 Q 30
29 The Minister responsible for women was located in the Home Office, the Department for culture media and sport
and the Treasury between 2010–2014. The Minister responsible currently is in the Department for Education.
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 11
them to account and get things done in the way that we do”.30 In short, she believed that it
did not matter in which department the role of Minister for Women sat but that the
individual in that role held others to account and could ensure change on these issues. She
believed that, as a cabinet level minister, she could do this and it was something that a
specifically created violence against women and girls junior ministerial post would not be
able to do.
24. It is clear that there are different arguments regarding the allocation of the post of
Minister for Women and how best to integrate policy on violence against women and girls.
25. We commend the Government for having a violence against women and girls action
strategy which appropriately links violence to gender and inequalities. We commend
the Home Secretary’s personal enthusiasm for it. However, we share witnesses’
concerns about the effectiveness with which the Inter-Ministerial Group co-ordinates
and secures actions across Government.
26. We commend the Prime Minister for retaining the position of Minister for Women
at cabinet level albeit combined with a broader portfolio. We believe the position of
Minister for Women requires such seniority. Whilst we are reassured by the efforts of
the Home Secretary in this policy area, we remain confused as to which Minister has
overall responsibility to address the perceived shortcomings in the Action Plan and
Inter-Ministerial Group. Whilst the Home Secretary is an authoritative figure within
Government, we recommend that the role of Minister for Women be more focused on
the Government’s strategy by becoming a joint signatory of the Action Plan and that
the Minister explicitly be given responsibility for co-ordinating work across
Government in this area together with the Home Secretary.
27. We recommend that the work of the Inter-Ministerial Group be broadened to
include questions of asylum and immigration rules and practice as well as the
compliance of devolved policy with the Istanbul Convention.
28. We recommend that the Minister for Women holds departments to account for
delivering against the Action Plan within Cabinet meetings, supported by the Prime
Minister, to display clearer leadership around this issue. This would send a strong
message to all Cabinet attendees and departments regarding the Government’s
commitment to delivering the plan.
30 Q 137
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12 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
3 Prevention
Awareness raising (Article 13)
29. Article 13 of the Istanbul Convention requires the UK to promote or conduct
awareness raising campaigns. This is a policy-based requirement. As discussed in this
chapter, the Home Office has taken the lead on awareness raising campaigns but there is a
need for campaigns to be cross-departmental—for example the Department for
Communities and Local Government liaise with faith leaders and the Department for
Education is responsible for disseminating relevant campaigns to schools.
Article 13—Awareness-raising
1 Parties shall promote or conduct, on a regular basis and at all levels, awareness-raising campaigns
or programmes, including in co-operation with national human rights institutions and equality
bodies, civil society and non-governmental organisations, especially women’s organisations, where
appropriate, to increase awareness and understanding among the general public of the different
manifestations of all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention, their consequences
on children and the need to prevent such violence.
2 Parties shall ensure the wide dissemination among the general public of information on measures
available to prevent acts of violence covered by the scope of this Convention.
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention?
30. The Government’s Action Plan says that in the last 12 months it has successfully bid
“for funding (approximately £250,000) from the European Commission to fund a project
raising awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK” as well as “re-launching
the highly successful This is Abuse campaign, including collaborations with Hollyoaks [a
TV soap opera] and MTV, and a new focus on reaching young male perpetrators.”31
31. The Government has also worked with or supported other campaigns aimed at
fostering cultural change and focusing on male behaviour. On 9 June the Home Office
launched a campaign which ran alongside the 2014 World Cup, urging young men to
think about the consequences of domestic abuse. Posters were placed in hundreds of men’s
toilets across pubs and bars in England, and digital adverts were featured on the Sky Sports
website and app. Aimed at 18 to 35-year-olds, the campaign reminded men that abuse
doesn’t have to be physical, as threats and controlling behaviour also count. The adverts
also reminded potential perpetrators of the terrible impact of domestic abuse, both physical
and psychological, on relationships. It signposted available support, with contact details for
the charity Respect.32
32. We are also aware of a campaign by Women’s Aid to raise awareness of violence
against women in popular culture in, for example the use of lyrics depicting domestic
31 A Call to End Violence against Women and Girls, Action Plan 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287758/VAWG_Action_Plan.pdf
[accessed 24 December 2014]
32 New domestic abuse campaign launched: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-domestic-abuse-campaign-
launched [accessed 2 January 2015]
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 13
violence by Welsh Rugby fans when they sing the song ‘Delilah’, by Tom Jones, during
games.33
33. Other organisations have also taken steps to help foster a culture of change, in
particular focusing on men. Sussex Police helped promote challenging domestic abuse
when they worked to obtain a full page promotion for White Ribbon Campaign, a
campaign for women to take a stand against violence against women, in Want you Dead, a
thriller about stalking by Peter James. The book was Number 2 in the hardback fiction
charts. Alongside this, the White Ribbon Campaign produced a set of anti-stalking
campaign materials, including posters.34
34. In articles and written evidence, different forms of media have been argued to have a
positive effect in changing cultural attitudes. The researchers on an Economic and Social
Research Council funded project, From Boys to Men, said: “Social marketing has the
potential to open a thoroughgoing conversation between young people and adults about
the nature of domestic abuse and what can be done to engage those boys and men who
begin to perpetrate it […] Social marketing campaigns should also help explore some of the
ways young men might respond when they are troubled by other men’s behaviour, without
necessarily having to physically confront perpetrators or endanger victims”.35
35. Dr Joanna Goodey, Head of Freedoms and Justice Department at the European Union
Agency for Fundamental Rights, said that media campaigns could have a positive impact
on cultural attitudes and gave examples of good practice from other countries:
People are often surprised that in countries like Spain there are very progressive
initiatives—TV campaigns, media slots—where men speak against violence against
women. Spain is very much in the lead on this, and has been for a number of years
now, so the stereotypes that exist about how certain member states respond to
violence against women are often proven not to be correct […] Only last week you
may be aware that the USA launched a huge campaign with Barack Obama, the
Vice-President and also prominent film stars—our very own Daniel Craig, for
example. You had the political and the populist response, where you had men,
including the President, in a slot speaking out against violence against women.36
36. Chris Green, Director of the White Ribbon Campaign, argued that the Government
needs to continue to challenge the normalisation of violence against women amongst boys
and young men. He said: “I think it is hugely important to engage with men. It is men’s
responsibility; we commit 90% of [violence] against women.”37 Article 12 of the Istanbul
33 We need to drop Delilah song for being too violent, says singer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-30432645
[accessed 4 January 2015]
Women's Aid England and Wales issue statement on 'Delilah': http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-violence-
press-
information.asp?itemid=3360&itemTitle=Women's+Aid+England+and+Wales+issue+statement+on+'Delilah'&section
=0001000100150001&sectionTitle=Press+releases [accessed 9 January 2015]
34 Violence against women and girls (VAWG) newsletter, Summer Edition 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/342982/VAWG_newsletter_Issue_8_v6
__2_.pdf [accessed 2 January 2015]
35 David Gadd, Claire L. Fox, Mary-Louise Corr, Ian Butler and Joanna Bragg: From boys to men: overview and
recommendations
36 Q 21
37 Q 54
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14 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
Convention requires the UK “to take the necessary measures to encourage all members of
society, especially men and boys, to contribute actively to preventing all forms of violence
covered by the scope of this Convention.”
37. We also heard evidence that, whilst the Government’s campaigns are welcome, they
could be made more effective. Professor Liz Kelly, Co-Chair of the End Violence Against
Women Coalition, argued that the Government’s This is Abuse campaign is not used as
strategically as it could be. She said: “some schools do not even know that it exists. There is
not a systematic way of alerting the schools that, each November, this is going to come up,
and they could actually use it as a resource.”38 The End Violence Against Women Coalition
called for: “long term investment in public campaigns to change harmful attitudes and
behaviours, learning from the THINK! Road safety campaign.”39
38. JAN Trust argued for awareness raising that is: “culturally sensitive and informed by
specific best response practice [so] that government rhetoric and strategy concerned with
manifestations of VAWG most likely found in certain communities do not contribute to
an ‘othering’, racially divisive discourse that merely drives the victims to feel further
alienated from mainstream British society”.40 The Bar Human Rights Committee of
England and Wales called for: “community engagement programmes directed at
modifying attitudes towards and cultural practices relating to VAWGs”.41
39. We also heard evidence from different groups within society that may be difficult to
reach through current campaigns. As we said in our Introduction, we recognise this crosses
lines of race, religion and culture. Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform told us:
Domestic violence perpetrated by paramilitaries or those with paramilitary
connections against their partners or families was not dealt with appropriately
during the conflict. In post-conflict Northern Ireland this continues to be an issue
regarding ex-combatants who have been released on license from prison. In some
cases where a perpetrator would be returned to prison if he committed further crime,
women who are victims of their violence are being pressured by their community
not to report domestic violence to police. As a result of the conflict, and the uneasy
relationship between police and certain communities, sexual and domestic violence
and child abuse have been addressed in some areas through community-based
groups instead of via official channels such as police or expert organisations like
Women’s Aid.42
40. Paul Valentine, a profoundly Deaf man who works for the Exeter Royal Academy’s BSL
counselling service, told us about the difficulties for those that are deaf: “the Deaf
community is very small, which can make it a stressful environment to live in, with not
many other opportunities to make friends outside of the community [d]ue to language
barriers. For hearing people, if they make a mistake, or upset people they have the option
to leave that friendship group or because they have many friendship groups, their mistake
38 Q 53
39 Written evidence from End Violence Against Women Coalition (VAW0053)
40 Written evidence from JAN Trust (VAW0019)
41 Written evidence from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England (VAW0035)
42 Written evidence from Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform (VAW0037)
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 15
can be diluted […] participants have no option but to stay in the community, or else risk
total isolation.”43 The issue of language barriers is not exclusive to the deaf community.
Cris McCurley, solicitor and partner in the practice of Ben Hoare Bell LLP, identifies
women living in the UK without the English language as extremely vulnerable.44
41. The Lesbian and Gay Foundation told us about the need to direct prevention action
and awareness campaigns at the LGB&T community as well: “Currently there is no
strategic approach from prevention to detection and treatment of domestic abuse for
LGB&T people […] Information displays in waiting areas need to include LGB&T friendly
material to make LGB&T people feel welcome and reduce barriers to accessing support
services. Separate literature needs to be developed targeting LGBT victims and identifying
LGBT specific weapons of power and control. For instance, many LGBT people do not
realise that a threat to out them is a form of domestic abuse.”45
42. Paul Valentine and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation represent two of a number of
communities where there are challenges regarding reaching victims of violence against
women and girls as well as awareness raising. We are particularly concerned about the
ability of the existing awareness campaigns to reach victims in these sorts of communities.
43. In response to questions about how well initiatives are working at raising awareness
amongst men, the Minister for Crime Prevention, the Rt Hon Lynne Featherstone MP, said
the Government: “support all of the campaigns that take this on, such as the White Ribbon
campaign and the UN’s HeForShe”.46 Regarding awareness campaigns for different
communities, the Minister for Crime Prevention said that the Government had given
£10,000 to “a scheme […] about training champions to go into those communities that are
closed to us and begin that change mechanism. In the case of FGM, another example
would be working with faith leaders. These are mainly patriarchal societies where what the
faith or community leader says goes.”47
44. We acknowledge the work that the Government has undertaken to work with faith
leaders. However, witnesses raised concerns regarding state actors working with such
leaders as they need also to “build up trust with the women and girls who are at risk” and
cooperate with the organisations who are working directly with women.48
45. We commend the Government for the awareness-raising initiatives it has
undertaken but note that evidence indicates that a lack of co-ordination across
departments has reduced the potential reach, delivery and ultimately success of these
initiatives. We recommend that the Inter-Ministerial Group monitor the success and
effectiveness of the campaigns to ensure that future campaigns are evidence based.
46. We also recommend that campaigns sometimes need to be targeted and specific.
This would help reach communities with particular needs—for example, people with
disabilities or LGB&T people. We commend the This is Abuse campaign for raising
43 Written evidence from Paul Valentine (VAW0007)
44 Written evidence from Cris McCurley (VAW0059)
45 Written evidence from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (VAW0023)
46 Q 116
47 Q 117
48 Q 77
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16 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
awareness of the issue of consent and coercive control and recommend that it be
extended further to focus on LGB&T relationships. We also recommend that the
Government should support the charities and organisations that could raise awareness
with women within communities rather than just targeting faith and community based
leaders.
Education (Article 14)
47. Article 14 of the Istanbul Convention specifies that teaching material on issues of
violence against women and girls is included in formal curricula at all levels of education.
This is a policy and practice based requirement. This Article places a requirement on the
Department for Education, but its second paragraph shows that the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport should also play a central role.
Article 14—Education
1 Parties shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues
such as equality between women and men, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-
violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence against women and
the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and
at all levels of education.
2 Parties shall take the necessary steps to promote the principles referred to in paragraph 1 in
informal educational facilities, as well as in sports, cultural and leisure facilities and the media.
48. We note that the House of Commons Education Select Committee is conducting an
inquiry into the effectiveness of how Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education
(PSHE) and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) are taught in schools and whether they
should be statutory as part of the National Curriculum or through some other method.
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention?
49. The Government’s Action Plan sets out the following actions for the Department for
Education:
a) to promote the teaching in schools of sexual consent and the importance of healthy
relationships;
b) to promote the outcomes from the newly established Personal, Social, Health and
Economic Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) expert
subject group to help provide support to teachers;
c) to pursue a range of channels to make suitable materials available to schools on
violence against women and girls and related safeguarding issues, including the
supplementary guidance on SRE produced by the PSHE Association, the Sex Education
Forum and Brook; and
d) to work with partners, including the PSHE Association, head and teacher associations
and unions and the Early Intervention Foundation, to give school staff effective access
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 17
to a range of information and resources on violence against women and girls and
related safeguarding issues.49
50. Emily Burnage, Preventative Education Project Worker, RISE, said that: “there are
pockets where there is some really good work being done, but provision in terms of PSHE
and SRE is patchy, so it could be that some children and young people are leaving school
with very little information around sex and relationships education”. She added that in:
“the current climate in education where attainment is really important, PSHE is one of
those things that can go by the wayside”.50
51. Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “PSHE, and
relationships and sex education, should be mandated across all schools.”51 Although she
acknowledged that PSHE needs to be “part of a wider picture […] It cannot be the only
thing. It must be matched by all the other work that needs to take place.”52 The PSHE
Association agreed: “We have long campaigned for a statutory entitlement to PSHE
education for every child, to ensure that the subject is delivered by trained teachers, and
given sufficient time on the curriculum.”53
52. Emily Burnage explained different schools’ approaches to delivering PSHE:
The issue with PSHE is how it is delivered. For example, some schools might have
one day a year when they will do a condensed day and give all the subjects in one go
and they have then ticked the box, it has been covered, but is that a meaningful way
for young people? I do not think it is. What it needs to be is embedded throughout,
from reception and across the curriculum as well. For example, I have given advice to
RE teachers about FGM and how we can talk about that in the context of RS, so it is
about looking and being creative about it is as well. However, for PSHE, if you
looked at different schools they would have different models and would prioritise it
differently as well.54
53. We hosted an online forum which asked parents for their views and experiences of
education for children about violence against women and girls (see Appendix 1).55 77% of
respondents thought that not enough was being done to educate children about gender-
related violence. The majority of parents who posted in the forum argued that education
needs to be improved around relationships, consent and abuse, but there was less
consensus about the depth to which educational materials should go into issues concerning
violence against women and girls. Some argued that better relationship education in
schools was needed, which would include content dealing with consent and abuse in
relationships. Several parents referred to the Freedom Programme. This Programme is an
49 A Call to End Violence against Women and Girls, Action Plan 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287758/VAWG_Action_Plan.pdf
[accessed 24 December 2014]
50 Q 60
51 Q 51
52 Q 53
53 Written evidence from PSHE Association (VAW0068)
54 Q 60
55 The responses given by members of the public have been anonymised but respondents were aware that their
answers might be quoted in the Committee’s Report and other papers.
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18 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
awareness-raising programme to help women, who have previously experienced abuse,
spot the signs of abuse before they become entrapped in a violent relationship. We
presume these parents wished for it to be adapted and used more widely as a preventative
tool amongst children and young people. The Programme’s website says:
The Freedom Programme examines the roles played by attitudes and beliefs on the
actions of abusive men and the responses of victims and survivors. The aim is to help
them to make sense of and understand what has happened to them, instead of the
whole experience just feeling like a horrible mess. The Freedom Programme also
describes in detail how children are affected by being exposed to this kind of abuse
and very importantly how their lives are improved when the abuse is removed.56
54. Other parents raised concerns about violence against women and girls being included
in educational materials, suggesting, for example, that children “are taught too many
depressing things already” or that such education might “imply a criticism of their own
family members”.
55. We held an informal meeting with Women’s Aid Young People’s Advisory Panel. The
young people who took part believed that such education should be included in the
curriculum and that open discussion would help to break down the ‘normalisation’ of
violence against women and girls at a young age and teach young women when and how to
seek help (see Appendix 2). They also said that teachers were the adults that they needed to
trust and be able to report things to, because it was unlikely that they would have one-to-
one contact with health or other frontline professionals. One young person said that she
had told a teacher about her home situation but that it had been the ‘wrong teacher’. We
believe that there should never be a ‘wrong teacher’ to disclose information to because they
have a safeguarding role under child protection law and all teachers should be trained
appropriately.
56. The Minister for Women outlined changes for the training and allocation of frontline
social workers but did not outline any training being offered for school teachers on these
issues.
57. The evidence we received strongly suggested that the teaching and discussion of these
issues within schools is patchy. Some schools demonstrate excellent policies, others use
charities to provide the teaching whilst others do nothing. This means that using education
as a key tool to prevent violence against women is piecemeal and not all children are being
reached. The End Violence Against Women Coalition said “The Department for
Education, key to taking forward prevention measures, has yet to deliver on its role”.57
58. We note that the teaching of these issues is complex: academies, free schools and
independent schools are not overseen by Local Education Authorities and instead adhere
to the Independent School Standards. The Government does, however, set the
Independent School Standards. The Minister for Women told us that:
Ofsted will inspect all schools on the basis of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural
education that they provide to their pupils. As we have recently seen, Ofsted will not
56 http://www.freedomprogramme.co.uk/
57 Written evidence from End Violence Against Women Coalition (VAW0035)
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 19
hesitate to challenge where they feel that a broad curriculum is not meeting that
spiritual, moral, social and cultural test. We firmly believe that PSHE and a broad
curriculum for life, which would include the issues that you talked about, is very
important.58
59. The PSHE Association, however, said: “PSHE education is a non-statutory subject
which is not assessed in detail by Ofsted. This means that it is [not always] given a high
priority by schools, and is often taught by teachers who are not trained in the subject. This
low status of the subject means that it does not meet the high standards required for
teaching about complex subjects such as gender-related violence.”59
60. Responding to questions about how schools teach these issues and whether the
Government was providing guidance, the Minister for Women said:
The teaching of sex and relationship education is compulsory in secondary state-
maintained schools. We understand and believe that most other secondary schools
follow that lead […] The Government’s view is that there is space in the curriculum
for schools to teach personal, social, health and economic education, which
encompasses a wide range of issues. You have mentioned a couple that are
important: consent and violence against women and girls […] On consent
education, the PSHE Association, which the Department for Education has given
some money to, has been commissioned to produce education and guidance for
teachers on teaching about consent. That will be published shortly.60
61. In giving evidence to the Commons Education Committee about what was included in
the curriculum for PSHE, Mr Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for School Reform,
Department for Education, said:
We are continually being pressed to be prescriptive on a whole range of issues, and
we want to hold the line and say that it is important to allow schools the autonomy to
develop their own curriculum outside the national curriculum area. We could be
prescriptive in a whole range of areas outside the national curriculum, but you have
to distinguish between the national curriculum and the school curriculum. As far as
the school curriculum is concerned, it has to reflect local needs and the needs of the
pupils.61
62. Chris Green called for higher education establishments to play a more active role in
promoting awareness around these issues:
The NUS is running a consent campaign and training. It should not be up to the
NUS to be running it. It should be up to those campuses, and those managements of
those institutions themselves. Public Health England is funding one bystander pilot
programme. We are working on another one at Lincoln University and they are
running one at the University of the West of England. But it ought not to be pilot
58 Q 113
59 Written evidence from PSHE Association (VAW0068)
60 Q 113
61 Oral evidence taken by the Education Committee, 17 December 2014 (Session 2014–15), Q 393
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20 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
programmes. It should be mandated that new university students start to get consent
education when they start to move into this new environment.62
63. The young people we spoke to from Women’s Aid Young People’s Advisory Panel, that
were over 18 years old and attended university, told us about their experiences of the
culture at university between men and women. One young person, who went to a
university in Nottingham, described her freshers events as being characterised as sexist and
sexual stereotypes were used for events or marketing. During her time at university, she
also described that sexism was commonly disguised as ‘banter’ and was seen everywhere.
Another young person talked about support services available for students who experience
violence against women during their time at university, or who may need help coming to
terms with things that happened to their family during childhood. She argued that
universities had greatly increased provision for mental health services yet not for victims of
domestic abuse. Another young person argued that universities weren’t doing enough to
support students who had been victims of gender based violence and it was not featuring
on the agenda of the universities.
64. We are aware that some higher educational establishments are taking a proactive role
in educating and raising awareness amongst their students, including collaborative
working between Karma Nirvana and Derby College regarding forced marriage63 and the
introduction of mandatory workshops about consent in some colleges of Oxford and
Cambridge.64
65. We acknowledge the work undertaken by some higher educational establishments to
educate their students, but we are concerned at the responses to a survey conducted by the
National Union of Students which show a lack of awareness amongst students of issues
relating to violence against women and girls (see Appendix 3). 1,120 respondents from all
over the UK responded to the survey. The survey indicated that 57% of male respondents
and 49% of female respondents were aware of the law on consent. Respondents were more
likely to be aware of where to get advice or help for a sexually transmitted infection (74% of
women, 72% of men) and rape (54% of women, 51% of men) than FGM (17% women,
20% of men) or coercive marriage (14% of women, 20% of men). More than 50% of
respondents had not heard of any of the Government’s campaigns to raise awareness,
indicating the limited reach these campaigns have.
66. The Department for Education has committed itself under the Action Plan to
pursue a range of channels for making suitable materials available to schools on
violence against women and girls and related safeguarding issues. The Minister for
Women told us that the Government has also committed the PHSE Association to
producing guidance on education about consent. We have not heard evidence that the
Government is pursuing channels to make materials available to schools, and the
guidance on consent has not yet been published. We consider that this must be
published before the UK is deemed to be fulfilling its positive obligations under the
Istanbul Convention. We recommend that guidance from the Department for
62 Q 54
63 Derby College tackles forced marriage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26923056 [accessed 9 January 2015]
64 Oxford and Cambridge University sexual consent courses start: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-29503973
[accessed 9 January 2015]
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 21
Education should go further than just consent and include other issues relating to
violence against women and girls—for example, FGM, forced marriage, sexual
exploitation and access to helplines. All forms of violence against women and girls
affect school-age children directly and personally and normalisation of violence against
women and girls occurs at a young age.
67. As a matter of practice, we also consider that the UK would be in a stronger position
to say that it is fulfilling the requirements of Article 14 of the Istanbul Convention if all
schools were required broadly to teach the same curriculum in relation to PSHE and we
believe that this national curriculum should include issues relating to violence against
women and girls. We believe this would also give Ofsted clear standards by which to
assess a school.
68. We also consider that higher education establishments, not student unions, should
be responsible for reinforcing this education within the higher education system and
therefore encourage these establishments to follow the lead of those that already have.
Training of professionals (Article 15)
69. Article 15 of the Istanbul Convention requires relevant professionals to receive
adequate training. This is a policy and practice based requirement and crosses practically
all departments of state, and also includes health professionals, social workers, teachers, job
centre staff, the police and the justice system. In this chapter we focus on training provided
for the judiciary. In Chapter 6 we look at the judiciary in more detail and training for the
police and in Chapter 7 we look at training for immigration officials.
Article 15—Training of professionals
1 Parties shall provide or strengthen appropriate training for the relevant professionals dealing
with victims or perpetrators of all acts of violence covered by the scope of this Convention, on the
prevention and detection of such violence, equality between women and men, the needs and rights
of victims, as well as on how to prevent secondary victimisation.
2 Parties shall encourage that the training referred to in paragraph 1 includes training on co
ordinated multi-agency co-operation to allow for a comprehensive and appropriate handling of
referrals in cases of violence covered by the scope of this Convention.
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention?
The judiciary
70. We heard that, whilst the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are actively
receiving training in the area of violence against women and girls, little was being offered
(let alone made compulsory) for the judiciary. Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime
Commissioner for Northumbria, and a former Solicitor General, said: “we have a highly
male-dominated judiciary who frankly are not, as I understand it, trained in domestic
violence and in my experience do not get it at all.”65 In England and Wales, the Judicial
College offers a three-day programme which criminal judges must complete to hear rape
65 Q 64
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cases. Sheridan Greenland OBE, Executive Director of the Judicial College told us: “there is
no dedicated training or specific authorisation required for non-sexual offences of assault
or violence. Crimes such as domestic abuse will feature within the normal continuation
training available to Crown Court judges particularly as a sentencing exercise.”66
71. Sheridan Greenland OBE said that training is offered for judges acting in civil cases:
The Judicial College’s family law courses last covered honour-based violence in detail
in judges’ training in 2010-2012 when two speakers—an academic from the
University of Warwick and a practising barrister—dealt with this topic. However,
legislative and reference materials are available to judges at all times. Applications for
Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs) can only be heard in certain courts.
All judges authorised to hear such applications have received appropriate training.67
72. We heard, however, that the judiciary did not always understand the most appropriate
ways to deal with honour-based cases. Rachel Horman, Solicitor and Head, Domestic
Violence and Forced Marriage Department at Watson Ramsbottom Solicitors, said “I have
seen civil court cases adjourned for family mediation to take place to resolve it, which is
very dangerous again and has been seen in a lot of the honour killings that have gone on”.68
73. In response to questions about how the judiciary and police could better adhere to
policies on violence against women and girls, the Minister for Crime Prevention said:
“There are a series of improvements in criminal justice outcomes for VAWG. There are
increased referrals to the CPS. There are increases in the volumes of prosecutions and
convictions, and there are improvements in the conviction rate […] Basically, things are
going in the right direction.”69
74. We welcome the requirement for judges who hear rape cases to have been trained to
do so but believe that there is scope for the judiciary to educate themselves further by
establishing separate training for those who deal with cases involving domestic
violence. Given that family law is dealt with in the civil courts and cases involving
domestic violence are heard in magistrates’ courts, this training should be available to
both criminal and civil judges and magistrates.
Participation of the private sector and media (Article 17)
75. The positive obligations under Article 17 (participation of the private sector and media)
of the Istanbul Convention are practice-based requirements rather than policy or legislative
ones. Article 17 recognises the need for respect for freedom of expression and the
independence of the press.
Article 17—Participation of the private sector and the media
1 Parties shall encourage the private sector, the information and communication technology sector
and the media, with due respect for freedom of expression and their independence, to participate in
66 Written correspondence from Sheridan Greenland OBE (VAWG (14–15) 033)
67 Ibid.
68 Q 76
69 Q 126
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 23
the elaboration and implementation of policies and to set guidelines and self-regulatory standards
to prevent violence against women and to enhance respect for their dignity.
2 Parties shall develop and promote, in co-operation with private sector actors, skills among
children, parents and educators on how to deal with the information and communications
environment that provides access to degrading content of a sexual or violent nature which might be
harmful.
76. In looking at the regulation of the press in this chapter, we note that broadcasters are
regulated by Ofcom which has statutory duties to regulate and can administer significant
fines and other punitive measures.70 Regulation of UK newspapers is currently uncertain.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is a self-regulatory body, which
superseded the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), and upholds the Editors’ Code of
Practice. However, not all newspapers are members of IPSO. IPSO itself is not recognised
under the recent Royal Charter for press regulation.
77. The Government’s Action Plan committed the Government to working with media
regulators and stakeholders “across industry to ensure that suitable media content
protections are maintained”.71
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention?
Responsible reporting v Freedom of the press and editorial independence
78. Jo Costello, from Ending Victimisation and Blame, said that newspapers are not always
responsible in their reporting of crimes:
We have also had a 13 year-old girl who was pursued aggressively by up to 200 men.
This was a case of sexual exploitation. Under the Telegraph headline, ‘13- year-old
befriended 200 men online’, yesterday, was, ‘A 13-year-old girl from Fife in Scotland
is at the centre of a paedophile probe after contacting around 200 men online and
exchanging indecent images’. She is being sexually exploited and yet the media are
reporting it as something she has instigated.72
79. Charlotte Dewar, Director of Complaints and Pre-publication Services at IPSO, said
that witnesses could sometimes be identified by a news story:
It is extremely rare for them to be identified as such, but information could be
published, in breach of the code, that contributes to a local community becoming
aware of who they are. Honestly, in terms of losing faith in human nature there is
really nothing like the community finding out the identity of an 11 year-old or 12
year-old girl who has been the victim of grooming or sexual assault by a teacher or
70 Ofcom operates under a number of Acts of Parliament, including in particular the Communications Act 2003. The
Communications Act says that Ofcom’s principal duty is to further the interests of citizens and of consumers, where
appropriate by promoting competition: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/about/what-is-ofcom/ [accessed 2 January 2015]
71 A Call to End Violence against Women and Girls: Action Plan 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287758/VAWG_Action_Plan.pdf
[accessed 2 January 2015]
72 Q 95
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another trusted person and that child being subject to ostracism and blame and
shaming. I am aware of a number of those cases […] It is absolutely shocking. Once
it gets to the stage of making a complaint, to an extent that process is already under
way and it is very difficult because you cannot put that rabbit back in the box.73
80. Jo Costello echoed these concerns:
There was a recent breach of anonymity of a victim of sexual violence by Sky News,
which they apologised for immediately. However, we have numerous concerns about
journalists who are live-tweeting court cases. They are in court hearing the evidence
and tweeting out what they are hearing. Although that information should be
anonymised, we, as women who work with broadcasters and regulators, know the
identity of some of those victims because we have been able to work it out.74
81. Jo Costello also said that guidance and training for individual journalists was already
published but there was a lack of sanction if they did not adhere to them:
The National Union of Journalists has really basic guidance on reporting violence
against women and girls. It is just over two A4 sides long and gives lots of support
services at the end that journalists could refer to in order to report properly on this
issue. These were set up in 2013 and had previously been on the members’ area of the
National Union of Journalists, so were accessible only to members, so we were not
aware of their existence until somebody sent us a copy. We then contacted the NUJ
and asked them to move it to the public area of their website, which they have done
and they did it really promptly. We refer many journalists who report poorly on this
issue to these guidelines, but there does not appear to be any kind of incentive for
them to refer to them in the first place or a sanction if they choose not to adhere to
them.75
82. Charlotte Dewar explained that IPSO would enforce the Editors’ Code of Practice:
What IPSO can do, and to give it credit what the Press Complaints Commission did,
is enforce those provisions of the code very strictly and try to make editors as aware
as possible through training and other means of the extreme danger of reporting
around this area and the fact that often acts of reporting court cases in good faith—
this goes back to the same point—can have effects that no one would have hoped for
in doing that.76
She also explained that: “the Press Complaints Commission upheld two complaints in the
last couple of months of its time.77
83. Tony Close, Director of Content Standards, Licencing and Enforcement at Ofcom, told
us how Ofcom assisted broadcasters in abiding by the Ofcom Broadcasting Code:
73 Q 95
74 Ibid.
75 Q 100
76 Q 95
77 Q 97
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Written guidance. Bringing them in in person to explain the steps that they should
take in order to avoid being non-compliant with the code. If they fail to take our
guidance on board and fail to stick to the rules set out in the code, we will incentivise
them to comply in future by recording breaches against them, hitting them with a
large financial penalty, or ultimately taking their licence away.78
Tony Close, when asked whether Ofcom had ever removed a licence for this sort of issue or
imposed a financial penalty, said Ofcom had not.79
84. We acknowledge the difficulty the Government has in this area in balancing freedom of
the press with regulation. We also sympathise with the Government in trying to engage
with publishers and broadcasters. We were greatly disappointed that our publicly funded
national broadcaster, the BBC declined all invitations to give evidence to this inquiry.
85. In response to concerns regarding responsible reporting, the Minister for Women said
“We are not going to tell people what they should and should not be reporting or how they
should be editing”.80 She did, however, acknowledge that women putting together reports
for broadcasters will often challenge gender stereotypes in a way that male reporters may
not: “I do not want to generalise, but it is very important that we have women in front-line
media positions and making editorial decisions.”81
86. The Istanbul Convention invites the media to self-regulate to help prevent violence
against women and girls. Whilst current regulatory standards may be appropriate,
there are clear examples where reporting of such violence has not been sensitive or
appropriate. Practice is falling short. We encourage editors to take a proactive
approach to educating their teams about sensitively reporting violence against women
and girls.
87. We recommend that regulators have the confidence to use their powers to sanction,
where necessary, broadcasters or press who have fallen short of the Ofcom
Broadcasting Code or the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Assistance to victims in making complaints
88. Jo Costello, from Ending Victimisation and Blame, told us: “One thing that is difficult
for our supporters is knowing where to make a complaint in the first place”.82 This was
particularly the case for newspapers as there is currently no single regulator.
89. Charlotte Dewar, Director of Complaints and Pre-publication Services at IPSO, told us
about the proactive role that IPSO play in supporting victims:
Where we become aware of huge coverage around an issue, particularly if it involves
members of the public who will not have legal representatives and press
representatives on hand, we will generally—because in the immediate aftermath of
78 Q 99
79 Ibid.
80 Q 123
81 Ibid.
82 Q 93
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an event that person is going to be experiencing chaos and they are not going to
really know what is going on— go via the relevant service. That could be the police in
many cases if it is an issue of violence or it could be the hospital if someone has been
injured and they are in hospital. We will make contact via an appropriate service.83
90. Charlotte Dewar also told us about pre-publication services offered by IPSO as well as
the ability of complaints to be taken forward even if the victim did not make the complaint:
We do a lot of pre-publication anti-harassment services […] Leveson, and I know
witnesses, called for representative groups that work with victims of sexual violence
to be able to act on behalf of victims who may not be able to represent themselves or
may not even be aware of a regulatory function and so are essentially not involved.
That is something that IPSO does have. We do have that ability. It is specifically in
our regulations. Where there is a significant public interest, we can take a complaint
from, say, a group that deals with refugees about a woman who may no longer be in
the country and so is not contactable or is vulnerable and not in a position to
represent herself. That is a really positive change.84
Jo Costello called for assistance for victims to be more formalised.85
91. There are currently a number of different media or press regulators. It is not easy
currently for victims to understand their rights and the correct routes for redress. We
recommend that community liaison officers86 be trained in this work so that they can
explain these rights where necessary.
The portrayal of women in the media
92. In 2013, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, in
its concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland, recommended that the UK: “Continue to engage with the
media to eliminate stereotypical imaging of women and their objectification in the media,
particularly in advertising.”87
93. The Government’s Action Plan said that the Government had completed the following
action: “Ensure media literacy tools are available to help people challenge body images and
gender stereotyping in the media.”88 The Government’s Action Plan commits the Gender
and Equalities Office to the following action by 2014-15:
83 Q 98
84 Ibid.
85 Ibid.
86 Community Liaison Officers are police officers who can give victims advice or put them in touch with other
organisations who may be able to access support. For example:
http://www.kent.police.uk/about_us/diversity/pages/comm_liaison.html [accessed 14 January 2015]
87 The CEDAW Committee’s Observations and Recommendations: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-cedaw-
committees-observations-and-recommendations-published [accessed 24 December 2014]
88 A Call to End Violence against Women and Girls: Action Plan 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287758/VAWG_Action_Plan.pdf
[accessed 2 January 2015]
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Support the development of further resources for young people of secondary school
age, and their parents, to improve their media literacy and resilience to low body
image.89
94. Witnesses, however, were concerned that the media objectified women and Caroline
Lucas MP said in her written evidence to us: “there is evidence that suggests a clear link
between consumption of sexualised images, a tendency to view women as objects and the
acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour as the norm”.90 She also raised concern
that “images that would be prohibited on television or subject to the watershed […] are
sold entirely without age restriction in shops, often at child’s eye level.”91
95. UK Feminista said: “There is extensive research evidencing the very harmful impact
both of treating women as sex objects and portraying them as sex objects in the media. In
relation to the portrayal of women in the media, the American Psychological Association
(APA) report that viewing media which portrays women as sex objects leads people to
become significantly more accepting of gender stereotyping, sexual harassment,
interpersonal violence, and rape myths. The APA also reveal that men are more likely to
treat women as sex objects and their behaviour towards women is more sexualised after
exposure to sexualised media.”92
96. Peter Grant, Co-Director of Restored, said: “the attitudes in society are probably
moving in the wrong direction in terms of our popular culture, in terms of the
objectification of women, in terms of the seeping of pornography into popular culture.”93
97. JAN Trust argued for ‘lads mags’ to be covered up in shops. They acknowledged the
right to freedom of expression but argued:
Another possibility could be laws to keep magazines with women objectified or
sexualised on the cover (‘lad mags’ such as Nuts, Zoo, FHM, GQ etc) from being sold
in family newsagents, shops or establishments, and where they are sold to be put on
the top shelf or behind modesty shields. This is not to attempt to supress freedom of
expression or enact censorship—we do not call for these publication[s] to be
banned—but simply to acknowledge that communal, public spaces should avoid
being explicitly degrading to women and girls.94
98. With reference to what the Government was doing to address these concerns, the
Minister for Women said:
My colleague Jo Swinson [Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and
Equalities] has been working on something called the body confidence campaign,
which is about the way that women and girls are portrayed in the media and not
89 A Call to End Violence against Women and Girls: Action Plan 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287758/VAWG_Action_Plan.pdf
[accessed 2 January 2015]
90 Written evidence from Caroline Lucas MP (VAW0054)
91 Ibid.
92 Written evidence form UK Feminista (VAW0017)
93 Q 57
94 Written evidence from Jan Trust (VAW0019)
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28 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
having unrealistic models and role models. That really affects girls’ self-esteem and
how they view themselves as they are growing up.95
99. We commend the supermarket chains, Tesco and Waitrose, for responding to a
campaign to remove the images and headlines from certain newspapers from the eye-
line of children and call on others to follow this lead.96 We also commend the
Government for taking action to encourage the private sector to undertake initiatives
to help promote positive role models for girls—for example, the body confidence
campaign.
95 Q 123
96 For example, Tesco and Waitrose removed newspapers from the eye line of small children:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30157742 [accessed 24 December 2014].
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4 Protection and support
Specialist support service (Article 22)
100. Article 22 of the Istanbul Convention requires the UK to provide specialist support
services for victims.
Article 22—Specialist support services
1 Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to provide or arrange for, in an
adequate geographical distribution, immediate, short and longterm specialist support services to
any victim subjected to any of the acts of violence covered by the scope of this Convention.
2 Parties shall provide or arrange for specialist women’s support services to all women victims of
violence and their children.
101. The Explanatory Report to the Istanbul Convention explains:
It is important to ensure that these services are sufficiently spread throughout the
country and accessible for all victims. Moreover, these services and their staff need to
be able to address the different types of violence covered by the scope of this
Convention and provide support to all groups of victims, including hard-to-reach
groups. The types of support that such dedicated services need to offer include
providing shelter and safe accommodation, immediate medical support, the
collection of forensic medical evidence in cases of rape and sexual assault, short and
long-term psychological counselling, trauma care, legal counselling, advocacy and
outreach services, telephone helplines to direct victims to the right type of service
and specific services for children as victims or witnesses.97
102. In this Chapter, we will look at the following concerns of witnesses:
a) local authorities application of the law on equality when commissioning services;
b) the need for specialist services for specific groups; and
c) cross-charging for services.
103. We consider support services for women with insecure immigration status and
asylum seekers in Chapter 7.
How well is the UK fulfilling the positive obligations under the Istanbul
Convention?
Local authorities’ application of the Equality Act
104. The Explanatory Report to the Istanbul Convention says: “The Final Activity Report
of the Council of Europe Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including
97 Explanatory Report: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/convention-
violence/convention/Explanatory_Report_EN_210.pdf [accessed 24 December 2014]
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Domestic Violence […] recommends safe accommodation in specialised women’s shelters,
available in every region, with one family place per 10 000 head of population.”98
105. In October 2014, the commissioning of victims’ support services was devolved to
Police and Crime commissioners. The funding of refuge spaces, however, remains the
responsibility of local authorities as a victim’s refuge place is funded through housing
support. They are, therefore, responsible for ensuring that they provide one family place
per 10 000 head of population. The Minister for Crime Prevention said: “the point is that
devolving power to local areas means that you have to assess what is needed in your area.
That varies from area to area.”99
106. The Equality Act 2006 created a general duty on public authorities, when carrying out
all their functions, to have due regard to the need (1) to eliminate unlawful discrimination
and harassment on the grounds of sex, and (2) to promote equality of opportunity between
women and men. The Equality Act 2010 replaced the 2006 Act and created a new ‘public
sector equality duty’ covering all forms of discrimination, and which requires public bodies
to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity
and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.
107. North East Women’s Network said that local authorities were misinterpreting the law
on equality in the commissioning of support services:
One organisation was excluded from tendering for a Domestic Abuse Service on the
grounds of the requirement for a gender neutral service. This common issue around
the misinterpretation of the Equality Act resulting in women-only services being
excluded from tendering on the basis of gender neutrality and supposed equality
needs highlighting. By the time we are able to challenge this, the timescales for
tendering have been exhausted and the argument has been forwarded that given the
cuts and limited funds available a gender-neutral tender meets the minimum
requirements100
108. Heather Harvey, Eaves for Women, said: “We are also seeing a possible
misunderstanding that is driving people to think that [they] have to provide the same
number of places for men as for women, without actually recognising, as the [C]onvention
requires, a gendered analysis of what is proportionate and what is needed.”101 She also said
“there is a massive shortage” of places for people to go.102 Hilary Fisher, Director of Policy,
Voice and Membership at Women’s Aid, said “In Devon recently, for example, the tender
did not require any refuge provision. There are no plans for refuge provision in Devon
whatever”.103 She told us that, on the basis of the Council of Europe’s recommendation of
one refuge place per 10,000 population, England is 1,646 short of the 5,223 places needed.
98 Explanatory Report: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/convention-
violence/convention/Explanatory_Report_EN_210.pdf [accessed 24 December]
99 Q 124
100 Written evidence from North East Women’s Network (VAW0043)
101 Q 36
102 Ibid.
103 Ibid.
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She attributed this to a failure to provide refuge places in some areas and the restriction of
access to services in areas with provision to women from those areas.104
109. The British Association of Social Workers also said there was an issue with women
accessing services: “In one day in 2013, services that responded to the survey turned away
155 women and 103 children from the first refuge they approached.”105 Women’s Aid
Annual Survey 2014 of domestic violence services found that 31% of referrals to refuge in
2013/14 were turned away because of lack of space and 13% of respondents had closed or
suspended and area of services due to lack of funding.106
110. Imkaan raised concerns about the UK’s ability to meet its obligations under the
Istanbul Convention due to local authorities not understanding the obligations: “The
government’s localism agenda has facilitated an environment where local authorities are
able to operate outside of the human rights context with no clear direction on their
obligations to address violence against women and girls.”107
111. The Government did not agree that localism was having a harmful effect on the
provision of specialist services. The Minister for Crime Prevention said: “Outside the £40
million of ring-fenced stable funding that went through 2010 to 2015, and was basically for
local, domestic and sexual violence support services and national health helplines, the
Ministry of Justice is opening 15 new rape crisis centres. We have funded 86 rape support
centres to provide independent specialist support to female victims aged 13 and over.”108
On 25 November 2014, the Government announced another £10 million to support
women’s refuges in 100 areas across England. The Minister for Crime Prevention also said
“We have had six roadshows about domestic abuse and violence going out to spread best
practice, to help with commissioning and to deal with related matters, so that local areas
can identify the services they need.”109
112. Councillor David Sparks OBE, Chair of the Local Government Association, said:
Councils […] have seen their budgets reduce by 40 per cent over this Parliament,
they continue to invest in services to support the victims of domestic violence. The
funding reductions have though meant councils have had to consider carefully what
mix of services is needed locally.
This has resulted in some local authorities commissioning different providers to
deliver services, while also using the letting of new contracts to improve the quality of
services to victims […]
While some councils have commissioned different models of service provision for
victims of domestic violence, overall this does not seem to have reduced the number
of bed spaces available in refuges.
104 Q 36
105 Written evidence from the British Association of Social Workers (VAW0030)
106 Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2014:
http://www.womensaid.org.uk/page.asp?section=00010001001400130005&sectionTitle=Women%27s+Aid+Annual+S
urvey [accessed 20 January 2015]
107 Written evidence from Imkaan (VAW0066)
108 Q 124
109 Q 116
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We do not have the resources to collect information from councils in England and
Wales on the number of refuge spaces they have, so do not hold the data you have
requested
113. The Convention requires adequate provision of refuge spaces. Local authorities
have been reluctant to provide the number of places for women required partly due to a
misinterpretation of the law on equality particularly in relation to gender-based
services. We welcome the ring-fencing of funds for support services and we recommend
that the Government issue guidance to all local authorities on the correct application of
the law on equality to the services required under the Istanbul Convention.
114. We are very concerned that the number of refuge spaces per head in local authority
areas is unknown and we are unclear as to how local authorities can claim that there
does not seem to have been a reduction in “the number of bed spaces available”. We
recommend that the Local Government Association be given the resources to analyse
and monitor the number of refuge spaces to ensure adequate provision across the
country which fulfils the positive obligations of the Istanbul Convention.
Cross-charging
115. We were concerned to hear about refuge spaces being restricted to victims within the
relevant authority. This misunderstands the need which often arises for women to move to
a new area to escape a perpetrator. Hilary Fisher, Director of Policy, Voice and
Membership at Women’s Aid, said:
Another thing that is happening is that refuges are being restricted by local
authorities to their constituents. The real challenge with that...is that women in those
areas are not able to leave because they are not able to get places. They do not want
local places, but moving to somewhere else if their area is not sharing is not going to
happen.110
116. She went on to say that these concerns were particularly a problem for black and
minority ethnic communities who need to travel far, and if it were a particularly serious
perpetrator, women “will travel four or five times and they will go a very long way.”111 She
concluded that the UK was not meeting its obligations under the Istanbul Convention. She
said:
I do not think it is meetings its obligations for two reasons: one, because it is not
meeting the numbers that are recommended; two, because it is abrogating its duties
by saying that it is the responsibility of the local authorities. It is not; it is a national
responsibility. Refuge is a national service; it is required nationally, and by saying
that it is up to the local authority to decide what provision it is means that in some
areas there is provision and in other areas there is not.112
110 Q 36
111 Ibid.
112 Ibid.
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117. Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2014 found that 74% of women accommodated came
from a different local authority area to the refuge.113
118. The Government argues that the localism agenda enables local authorities to
determine and provide for the needs of that area. Women will however often need to
seek services outside their own local authority area because they need to put distance
between themselves and the source of violence or to access specialist services. We
therefore recommend that the Government consider enabling local authorities to cross-
charge for providing these services to non-constituents.
Specialist services for specific groups
119. As explained above, local authorities should be able to commission services specific to
their area thus addressing their community’s need. We have heard, however, that this
particularly has affected the provision of specialist services for specific groups.
120. Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, raised concerns that competitive
tendering is leading to a shortage of specialist local services: “Commissioning processes
seem to work against small, specialist services. They tend to favour more corporate-like
organisations that can bid and provide the kind of target-driven, time-bound outcomes
that are required. A lot of support shelters or refuges have closed or are threatened with
closure. Others have merged and become more generic”.114
121. Nushra Mansuri, Professional Officer England from the British Association of Social
Workers, told us: “If we are looking at women and young women from minority
backgrounds, we know that the cuts have hit them disproportionately even harder. I will
say, from my experience as a social worker for many years in the sector, how important it is
for women and young women from particular communities to have very sensitive and
specialist services. It is very sad to see the demise of that and things becoming more
generic.”115
122. Annie Rose, Independent Sexual Violence Advocate from Respond, noted that access
to specialist services was very limited: “There is only one refuge in the country for people
with learning disabilities, and for a woman to get in there she has to be funded by her local
authority. It is not like with normal refuges, for which there is housing benefit and other
benefits. They have to agree to pay a price. It is quite expensive to be in a specialist refuge
for a week, and because of the cutbacks many women are not able to access these refuges,
and the re-victimisation and the cost to the country goes on and on and on”.116
123. Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur, also found a reduction in the number
and quality of specialised services for women and “it was made clear to me how women
113 Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2014:
http://www.womensaid.org.uk/page.asp?section=00010001001400130005&sectionTitle=Women%27s+Aid+Annual+S
urvey [accessed 20 January 2015]
114 Q 36
115 Q 42
116 Q 45
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from black and minority ethnic communities, women belonging to the LGBTI community,
and women with disabilities, are further affected by these cutbacks”.117
124. In response to concerns regarding local authorities commissioning support service,
the Minister of State at the Home Office and Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, the
Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, said that there is a joining up of the bidding process with health
teams, police teams and police and crime commissioners. He argued that this meant some
of the “traditionally done services will lose; I must be honest about that. However, there
will be better coverage as to what is going on in our constituencies”.118 He also said that
there would be “winners and losers in localism and some of the traditional ways may not
be the way to win contracts in the future”.119 The Minister for Crime Prevention also said
that “local authorities have a choice about where they make cuts”.120
125. The new localism model for commissioning services may have had unintended
consequences which have disproportionately affected the provision of refuge services
for women from specific groups with very special needs. The Government should
collate data on the national coverage of specialist services and take responsibility for
ensuring that specialist support services remain available to all, regardless of their area.
Spare Room Subsidy
126. Whilst the Istanbul Convention does not mention welfare, we heard about the effect
of the Spare Room Subsidy on victims of violence against women and girls in relation to
sanctuary schemes. The police promote sanctuary schemes as they provide a safe and
secure room within a house for a victim and, if required, her children. There is currently a
judicial review in the High Court of a proposal to reduce a woman’s housing benefit from a
three bedroom (she currently lives in a three bedroom with her son) to a two bedroom
property, as the third bedroom is a secure room to be used as a sanctuary.121 This issue was
raised during PMQs on 19 November 2014.122
127. Women’s Aid argued that forcing individuals to move in such circumstances would
leave the victims vulnerable. It said that Swindon Borough Council excluded sanctuary
scheme properties in its area from the size criteria and made Discretionary Housing
Payments available for these properties. Women’s Aid welcomed: “the move taken by
Swindon Borough Council and call on all other councils in England to follow their lead”.123
128. The Government, in response to the judicial review before the High Court, said it had
made nearly £350m available for local authorities to help in such cases. . A spokesman for
the Department for Work and Pensions said: “it understood the council awarded a
117 Special Rapporteur on violence against women finalizes country mission to the United Kingdom and Northern
Ireland and calls for urgent action to address the accountability deficit and also the adverse impacts of changes in
funding and services: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14514& [accessed 2
January 2015]
118 Q 124
119 Ibid.
120 Ibid.
121 Court challenge to benefit changes for ‘secure housing’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30110270 [accessed 2
January 2015]
122 HC Deb, 19 November 2014, cols 264-265 [Commons Chamber]
123 Written evidence from Women’s Aid (VAW0018)
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Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls 35
payment to make up a shortfall in rent. The spokesman added that victims of domestic
violence living in supported accommodation, such as a woman's refuge, are exempt from
the removal of the spare room subsidy.”124
129. We recommend that the Government should exclude sanctuary scheme properties
from the size criteria of the Spare Room Subsidy. If the Government is unwilling to do
this, we recommend that all local authorities should exclude sanctuary scheme
properties in its area from the size criteria and make Discretionary Housing Payments
for sanctuary scheme properties affected by the Spare Room Subsidy.
124 Court challenge to benefit changes for ‘secure housing’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30110270 [accessed 2
January 2015]
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36 Sixth Report: Violence against women and girls
5 Substantive law
Psychological violence (Article 33)
130. Article 33 of the Istanbul Convention requires coercive behaviour to be criminalised.
It does not, however, stipulate that a specific criminal offence of coercive behaviour be
created.
Article 33—Psychological violence
Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the intentional conduct
of seriously impairing a person’s psychological integrity through coercion or threats is criminalised.
How well is the law complying with the Istanbul Convention?
131. There is not currently a specific criminal office of coercive behaviour in the UK.
Norman Baker MP, when Minister for Crime Prevention, said in the Government’s Action
Plan that the Government had extended “the domestic violence definition […] to cover
coercive control”.125
132. Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said:
It is possible, under existing legislation, to prosecute non-physical abuse, for example
stalking and harassment laws. Psychological injury can be prosecuted under the
offence of ABH, which is part of the Offences against the Person Act. In order for
psychological harm to amount to ABH, it must be of sufficient severity to meet
criteria for a psychiatric condition.126
She went on to argue that criminalising coercive control could have unintended
consequences:
It could lead to, for example, it being treated as a separate category of crime. It could
lead to reduced sentencing. It might be that perpetrators make allegations of coercive
control against their victims. I think it will just be unworkable, and there are
problems with implementing an offence of coercive control.127
133. Vera Baird QC was unsure whether there needed to be a specific criminal offence or
not but argued that there was a need to raise awareness within the criminal justice agencies.
She said: “domestic violence is about coercive control […] I am absolutely sure that we
must stop having agencies that think domestic violence is about black eyes, and have ones
that understand that is what is going on”.128
125 A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan 2014:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287758/VAWG_Action_Plan.pdf
[accessed 2 December]
126 Q 73
127 Ibid.
128 Ibid.