Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Slavery in the 21st Century

by Heather Harvey

Campaign Manager- Stop Violence Against Women Campaign

Amnesty International UK

As we are all celebrating the 200 year anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, and the UK government’s signature of the Council of Europe Convention Action Against trafficking in Human Beings, this is a good moment for reflection.

Some people believe that trafficking is the same as illegal immigration or people smuggling. It is not – in both illegal immigration and people smuggling, once the people arrive at their destination country they are free to go and take their chances. Trafficked people, firstly are not always here illegally but secondly are both tricked or forced into their situation for the express intention of exploiting them. The Convention defines trafficking “the movement of people, using violence, coercion or deception, in order to exploit their labour or services” The UN definition makes it clear that trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation but also encompasses domestic servitude, forced marriage and labour exploitation. The UN also makes clear that trafficking is a contemporary form of slavery. Of course this does not mean it is the same as the transatlantic slave trade. The attention on trafficking is not intended to be at the expense of recognising the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade and the lasting poverty and inequality that it caused and which continues today.

Nonetheless it is estimated that some 12 million men, women and children are living in slavery today. In 2003 Home office figures estimated some 4000 men, women and children were trafficked to the UK to be exploited and abused and in a recent study by End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT) it was found that 32 out of 33 London Boroughs had problems with child trafficking. Amnesty’s current campaign has been drawing attention to steps that Government’s can take to help victims and the UK government in particular can do more.


“Maryam”, a 13 year old girl with a twin sister from West Africa were doing well at school until their parents felt they had had enough education and it was time they were married off to some village elders in their community. To be marriageable though they first had to undergo circumcision or “female genital mutilation”. Maryam’s twin died during the procedure and Maryam did not want to go through with it or with the marriage. When she refused her parents rejected her so she ended up on the streets. Here a man offered to bring her to London for a better life and an education. Once here, she was locked in a basement and used as a child prostitute from age 13-19. At 19 her trafficker her released her and took her to Waterloo with false documents wanting her to leave the country. At Waterloo she was arrested for being in possession of false documents – she was convicted and served a 10 month prison sentence. At no time was she offered rape crisis counselling, sexual abuse counselling, sexual and medical health advice, post traumatic stress counselling or any other services that a child victim of abduction, imprisonment, physical and sexual violence would need.

It this sort of repeat victimisation and criminalisation by the state that implementing the convention would address – within the terms of the convention the first priority would be identifying and meeting the needs of the victim.

Useful Links:
 The Truth Isn't Sexy
Slave Britain


Anti Slavery

Eaves 4 Women


Amnesty International UK

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Wednesday, 21 March 2007

New Route to Make Police Accountable

Posted by Frank Mullane

My sister Julia Pemberton and nephew William Pemberton (pictured left) were murdered on 18th November 2003, 14 months after Alan Pemberton promised to kill Julia, notice that was given to Thames Valley Police (TVP).

This Force had no Domestic Violence policy despite Home office guidance requiring it, years before. It ignored the reporting of explicit death threats, of intensifying threats and infringements of the injunction with power of arrest.

TVP’s futile firearms policy was of more danger to the victim and yet was redeployed seven months later at Highmoor Cross when Vicky Horgan and Emma Walton were murdered. At that Inquest, TVP testified that the call handler doesn’t know the operational response of the police. It is of enormous significance that this Force, under the charge of Chief Constable Peter Neyroud who has never communicated with my family, allowed a call handler to offer my sister encouragement and advice which amounted to critically misleading life dependent information. Julia was being promised immediate assistance whilst the police log recorded “No units to attend”. It is equally significant that this untenable firearms policy was not changed before the tragedy at Highmoor Cross even though the police must have known it was not about going to the assistance of the victim/s.

Suing the police for negligence in the past has proved very difficult as they have successfully relied upon the case of Hill. Today, there may be another way via the The Human Rights Act by asking a High Court judge for a 'declaration' that the police failed to protect the victims' right to life. Last year, the family of Giles Van Colle was awarded £50,000. The judge ruled that the police had failed to 'discharge their positive obligation' to Van Colle by doing nothing about the threats, adding that his family's distress had been intensified by the force's failure to apologise. The police have appealed, the judgement being outstanding.

If the Van Colle family wins, other cases will follow potentially bringing an unprecedented level of scrutiny to bear on police handling of domestic violence cases. Use of this remedy is in its infancy and such cases need support.

John Latham, the solicitor representing many families in these cases said:

“All these cases have clear evidence of systemic failure. It's just not good enough, as the police have claimed in the past, to say that women died because certain individuals did not get it right.”

Read further articles by Frank Mullane
April 2006 and March 2007


Wednesday, 14 March 2007

The Forced Marriage Bill- A response

Posted by Aisha Gill, Chair of Newham Asian Women's Project

In 2005, the Joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (JFCO/HO/FMU), consulted on a proposal to create a specific criminal offence related to forced marriage. Newham Asian Women’s Project welcomed and supported the need to create early intervention and preventative mechanisms to combat such marriages. At the time we argued that, on balance, we did not believe that creating a specific offence would be the most effective way to deter this harmful practice and provide adequate protection for victims. In agreement with many other key organisations working in this area, we stated that such legislation would be problematic.

We welcome the efforts of Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC in recognising that the issue of forced marriages needs more committed attention than it has received, and thus we support proposals to amend the Bill.

However, we would like to raise some issues in regards to tightening the content to avoid “implementation problems”. The procedure for obtaining injunctive relief appears to be similar to that for obtaining injunctive relief in other domestic violence situations under the Family Law Act, and for this reason, it would be a natural extension to incorporate the provisions into the Family Law Act. The courts, the police and family lawyers are already familiar with the workings of the Family Law Act and such incorporation would involve minimal “disruption” and costs – and most importantly, swifter adoption by those seeking this redressal. It would be a fairly simple exercise to amend the current documentation and procedures that already exist on an application under the Family Law Act to include forced marriage.

In our view, a free-standing law on forced marriages will not achieve any greater purpose than an amendment in the FLA. By creating a specific legislation on forced marriages, a distinctive law on the issue will be created instead of recognising forced marriages as a form of domestic violence. For better response to survivors of forced marriages, there is a growing need to integrate the responses, services and remedies available to all forms of domestic violence.

It is not clear why a free-standing act should be any easier for victims to use and understand. The actual wording of the Act will remain essentially the same. Surely, if there is to be any simplification, it should be in the language of the Act. Furthermore, an assumption is being also made that victims will be “going it alone” when in fact the vast majority will rely upon family lawyers to make the applications for them. In addition, there have been various ‘DIY Injunction kits’ available for survivors of domestic violence to apply for injunctions under the FLA and similar kits can be made available for the proposed Part 4A of the Act.

Aisha Gill
Chair of NAWP a.gill@roehampton.ac.uk
To read the full response from NAWP click here

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Three times the number of lap-dancing clubs as rape crisis centres

Professor Liz Kelly
EVAW Chair

As we celebrate the achievements of women around the world this International Women’s Day, March 8th, we should also reflect on the continuing barriers to equality.

Pause for a moment and think - if a female friend was raped wouldn’t you advise them to call a helpline, maybe even rape crisis. Did you know there is no 24-hour sexual violence helpline in the entire UK? Or that there are now half the rape crisis centres there were in 1984 (then there were 68, now just 37)? That there are no rape crisis services at all in Wales and Northern Ireland?

The Government has made some efforts recently to stem the haemorrhaging of sexual violence services – investing £4 million from the Victims Fund spread between establishing new Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) and support for existing rape crisis and survivors groups. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs04/hors285.pdf

£4million sounds like a lot, but government is spending ten times that amount (£40 million) on public information about the switch to digital media. For three years delays in announcing continuation funding until the very last minute places impossible burdens on already fragile groups, who have to issue redundancy notices to core staff. Who cares about the survivors for whom these groups are a lifeline, the women who will be assaulted in the future who will have nowhere to turn?

What does it tell us that in 2007 the state of Florida has almost twice the number of rape crisis centres as the entire United Kingdom (53:37)? That there are three times (and growing) as many lap-dancing clubs as rape crisis centres (and falling)?

This is a real crisis and I have had enough of uninterested journalists and complacent politicians – I want to start a new campaign. It has two simple asks.

· The first is for an immediate grand gesture - if a single premier league football donated one weeks wages it would secure all rape crisis centres for at least a year.
· The second is that the Government creates a mechanism to secure existing sexual violence services consistent with its own compact for voluntary sector – that funding is done on a three year cycle.

For too long women have settled for very little, it is time to say the standard of services available communicate something profound. In the aftermath of sexual violence it tells us whether as a country we think women are worth more or worth less.