What more we can do to ensure all women are protected from violence?
Words by Home Secretary Amber Rudd
‘It is truly chilling that each day women and girls across the UK and the world – our mothers, sisters, daughters – are being subjected to devastating acts of violence – brutally punished for being born one gender.
Whether it’s domestic abuse, sexual assault or so-called ‘honour-based violence’, such as forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM), these horrific crimes must be wiped out.
I have witnessed first hand the incredible work being done to tackle these crimes and protect and support victims. Last year I visited a women’s refuge and spoke to a young woman who had been forced to flee her violent partner, but who was being given the help she needed to recover and rebuild her life.
At our Ending FGM event in December I met with a survivor of this barbaric practice, who despite being subjected to a physical and emotional abuse few of us could imagine, had got her life back and was devoting it to wiping out this terrible crime.
International Women’s Day will see us celebrate the achievements of women around the world and throughout history, while also reflecting on what more we can do to ensure all women are protected from violence.
As Home Secretary this is a question I must ask constantly.
I have seen, and feel immensely proud of, this Government’s achievements in this area. We have worked tirelessly over the past six years to support victims, bring perpetrators to justice and prevent these vicious crimes from ever taking place.
Last year we pledged an increased £80 million as part of the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. New laws, including the criminalisation of forced marriage, new stalking offences and protection orders, and the introduction of coercive control as a form of domestic violence are helping law enforcement crack down on offenders and identify and protect women and girls suffering, or at risk of, harm.
And a recent Government-supported bill on the Istanbul Convention on violence against women took another step closer to becoming law. The Convention obliges all parties to adopt measures to prevent violence against women. And while the UK is all but fully compliant, as global leaders we are clear that we must set an example by ratifying the Convention as soon as possible.
But we know there is more to do. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Be Bold for Change’, and that is exactly what we must be.
We are committed to transforming and continually improving the law enforcement response to these crimes; putting victims and survivors at the heart of sexual assault and abuse investigations. By strengthening the law and raising awareness we are working to wipe out FGM at home and abroad within a generation. And we are working to prevent future generations from entering into harmful relationships by teaching children and young people what a healthy relationship looks like through our groundbreaking awareness campaigns and compulsory sex and relationship education in all our schools.
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Earlier this year the Prime Minister asked the Justice Secretary and I to lead a task force aimed at producing a groundbreaking domestic violence bill, which will strengthen the law and ensure we are able shine a light on all elements of this so often hidden crime and bring perpetrators to justice
But we cannot do this alone. Which is why I chaired a meeting of Ministers from across Government and leading charities working to protect women and girls who will give their verdict on the Government’s approach to tackling these crimes.
They will tell us where they think we are doing well, where we can provide further support and, I am sure, where they think we could improve.
Only by working together and learning from each other can we ensure we are doing everything we possibly can to eradicate violence against women and girls once and for all.’