Gender-based violence wrecks families and communities: we must do all we can to stop it
There are some crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls.
Crimes of gender-based violence and abuse devastate lives, destroy families, and have a profound and lasting effect on our communities.
Supporting victims of these horrific crimes and giving them a voice, as well as stopping the cycle of abuse, are my absolute priorities as Minister for Safeguarding at the Home Office.
We have made significant strides in supporting victims of domestic abuse, providing nearly £40 million to support domestic abuse organisations affected by the pandemic. A further £125m has been announced by MHCLG to fund the revolutionary duty on local authorities to provide specialist services to victims in safe accommodation. The government’s commitment to tackling this heinous crime was emphasised again last week in the Budget, with an investment of £19m to help homeless victims of domestic abuse and to fund more perpetrator programmes. And, of course, this is backed by our ground-breaking Domestic Abuse Bill which is in its final stages in the Lords before Royal Assent.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. I want to challenge us all to consider the different crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls, in addition to domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Sadly, such crimes include so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse like forced marriage, as well as stalking and online offences. We have already strengthened the law on these crimes but we must continue to go further, especially because existing and new crime types are being enabled by the speed of technological growth.
We want to make sure we have the right tools and legislation in place to tackle emerging crimes such as revenge porn, and cyber-flashing, as well as driving improvements in targeting offenders.
That is why last year the government launched a Call for Evidence on tackling violence against women and girls, to enable us to better understand the public’s views on these terrible crimes, the impact they can have, and the measures which may help identify and prevent them. This was the largest consultation of its type on this subject and I am very grateful to my Ministerial colleagues who disseminated the survey through their departments and networks. From the NHS, local councils and charities to colleges, universities and the armed forces, as well as across social media and traditional media, we spread the message of the Call for Evidence as widely as possible.
The consultation closed last month, and I am delighted that we received over 15,000 responses from across the country and representing a diverse range of ethnicities, ages and backgrounds.
Those responses will help inform two new national strategies – one focussed on the range of crimes against women and girls, and a further specific strategy on domestic abuse to follow once the DA Bill is passed - which will help drive a step-change in the response to these crimes.
We know that violence against women and girls and domestic abuse are intrinsically linked, but we recognise that domestic abuse is so high harm, so high volume, that it warrants a dedicated strategy. Two national strategies will mean there is twice as much focus on these crimes.
I know that it requires great bravery for victims to come forward. I am therefore very pleased that many of them shared their views through this Call for Evidence, so the strategies can reflect their views and experiences, and we can strive for a society where such crimes are stopped. That is the challenge for us all.