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Labour will continue to take a lead on tackling violence against women and girls

3 min read

Everyone should be able to feel safe in our homes, on our streets and in our communities. All of us should be able to live in freedom from fear. Yet for too many women that is just not the case, and we should not stand for this.

Be it teenagers harassed in the street, students fearful of being spiked in bars, mothers or grandmothers coerced or beaten in their own homes – too often when women experience violence or abuse, far too little is done to stop the perpetrators, get victims and survivors proper support, or prevent it happening again.

Despite warm words from government, there has been too little serious action and in some areas the clock has even been turned back. That is why, this Conference, Labour will set out new action to tackle the appalling epidemic of violence against women and girls.

The facts are truly grim. Across the country today it is estimated that around 300 women are likely to be raped – a completely devastating crime. Around 190 of those rapes will be reported. And of those, fewer than three cases will make it to court. Charge rates for rape and domestic abuse have plummeted over the last seven years. That means more abusers and rapists are getting away with their terrible crimes and are free to abuse and hurt women again.

For Labour, this is about equality and justice, values that are at the heart of our movement

Labour warned seven years ago that the police were becoming too overstretched to properly tackle serious crimes such as rape and domestic abuse. It has got much worse since then with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate warning that: “Provision is at breaking point… Rape victims are continually and systematically failed by the criminal justice system.”

Meanwhile the government’s promised perpetrator strategy is too weak, with little action to stop repeat domestic abusers. Too often there isn’t enough specialist knowledge or support within police forces. Victims don’t get enough support and there are unacceptably long court delays, leading to 40 per cent of rape victims giving up on the system and dropping out last year. Labour won’t stand by while women and girls are so badly let down.

Even from opposition Labour has led the debate. For years we campaigned for a Domestic Abuse Commissioner until the government finally agreed to introduce one.

Our campaigns have also led to new stalking laws and new voyeurism laws.

These last 12 months we have forced the government to accept our policies including finally listing violence against women and girls as a priority area for police forces and recognising that violence against women and girls should be included in the definition of serious violence (astonishing that this was ever in doubt).

Ministers also eventually accepted Labour’s amendment to end the unfair six-month time limit on prosecuting domestic abuse in the magistrates’ courts which was denying so many survivors any justice. But Labour in government would do so much more.

This Conference Labour will be setting out plans to tackle violence against women and girls to prevent abuse, provide more support and increase justice – including measures to improve policing, tackle perpetrators, improve charge rates and support victims. And it is why Keir Starmer has long championed a new victims’ law to support those who suffer from crime. For Labour, this is about equality and justice, values that are at the heart of our movement and that is why we will continue to fight for change.

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