Monday, 26 November 2007

Cameron weighs in on rape

by Jon Collins, Senior Policy Officer, Fawcett Society

Conservative leader David Cameron, in a speech to the Conservative Women's Organisation, announced last week a package of measures to tackle rape. The speech gained widespread media coverage not all of which was positive (see The Guardian), but what about the substance?

The proposals covered three main areas – education on consent in schools as part of sex education, three-year funding cycles for rape crisis centres, and a review of sentences for rape. Perhaps most importantly, and largely ignored by the press, Cameron also pledged “to make sure that when we come into government, we have an integrated strategy to tackle all violence against women”. The Conservatives should be congratulated for promising this, a key demand of the End Violence Against Women campaign.

However, while overall the proposals are welcome, inevitably there are some questions to be asked. Firstly, the speech makes no promises for more funding for rape crisis centres. While longer-term funding is necessary, a much higher level of investment is also needed to stabilise and then expand this sector (link). Secondly, education on consent alone is not enough. Change is also needed in broader societal attitudes towards women and towards violence against women, and schools must play a central role in achieving this.

Thirdly, while Cameron identified the shamefully low conviction rate as a central problem in the criminal justice process, he did little to suggest how it can be increased. The focus on sentencing, traditional Conservative ground, is therefore a distraction. While the sentence should of course be proportionate to the crime, it is hardly the most pressing issue when so few rapes lead to a conviction.

Despite these caveats, the speech was a major step forward for the Conservatives and should put pressure on the Government to match their commitments. But what we need to see now is not a game of political point-scoring between the parties. Instead, we need a serious debate on how best to prevent rape and how to address the rape conviction rate and the lack of services available to rape victims.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Men Combating Violence against Women

by John Austin, Member of the UK Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Committee (PACE) and also member of the PACE Equal Opportunities Committee.

The Council of Europe (COE) is currently running a massive 2 year campaign Combat Violence against Women across all 47 member countries, focusing this year on ‘involving men’...

The COE is currently supporting national parliaments and encouraging male parliamentarians to raise awareness politically and amongst the general public, specifically with the intention of engaging more men in combating violence against women.

Mr Chris Green, Chair of the White Ribbon Campaign UK, the largest NGO effort worldwide led by men that seeks to involve men in getting involved in advocating gender equality, argues that more male MPs need to take the lead in advocating gender equality:

"Parliamentarians enter parliament in order to make their community a better place.
There is no more important way to do this than by working to eliminate violence against women. Yet because of the overrepresentation of men in every Parliament in Europe, it is vital for individual male parliamentarians to be involved in order for change to take place”

One such model of best practice of men getting involved at political level is the Swedish network of Male Parliamentarians. Formed in 2002, this Male Network aims to carry out the debate in the meeting-rooms, on the building scaffoldings, on business trips, and, to improve men’s level of knowledge regarding the underlying structures that make men’s violence against women possible.

The Parliamentary Assembly is now in touch with MPs in the UK and is offering to help support the creation of any formal network of male MPs dedicated to combating violence against women within the APPG (All Political Party Group) on Domestic Violence. The recent rise in ‘involving men’ initiatives has been controversial, however with the 25th November fast approaching, arguably there is not better time for male parliamentarians in the UK to get involved, than now…


Council of Europe: Combat Violence against Women

Council of Europe – Men Combating Violence
White Ribbon Campaign UK

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Violence Against Women: a universal phenomenon

by Noema Chaplin

Half of humankind lives under the threat of violence, regardless of income, age, class, race, culture or ethnicity. Violence causes untold misery, harms families across generations and impoverishes communities...

It stops women from fulfilling their potential, restricts economic growth and undermines development. Efforts should be made to reach a consensus and set universal standards of behaviour through the elaboration of human rights in order to protect human life and dignity in our fast changing world

Violence is an extremely diffuse and complex phenomenon with biological, psychological, social and environmental roots, defined by the World Health Organization as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation."

The human cost is grief and pain, which, of course, can’t be calculated. The impact of violence: lives lost and health harmed. Many victims are too weak, scared or young to protect themselves. Much violence occurs out of sight, in homes, workplaces and even in medical and social institutions. Many acts of violence are never recorded because they do not come to the attention of authorities. Pretty often women became homeless or impoverished as the result of violence. It’s against human security and dignity.

A wide range of public health researchers in the United States and around the world have set themselves the task of understanding violence and finding ways to prevent it. Many different sectors and agencies should be involved in prevention activities and evaluation should be an integral part of all programs. Agencies should:

- Create, implement and monitor a national action plan for violence prevention;
- Enhance capacity for collecting data of violence;
- Increase collaboration and exchange of information on prevention, etc.

It is time to take these efforts to the next level. Members States can do more to implement the legal and policy frameworks to which they have committed themselves. All of us must form strong and effective partnerships with civil society, which has such a crucial role to play on this issue at every level. Together, we must work to create an environment where violence against
women is not tolerated. Let all of us -- men and women alike -- join forces in this mission.

Noema Chaplin
Board Member CCC/UN (Coordination Communication Committee)
Member of the Planning Committee of 57th, 58th, 59th DPI/NGO conference, New York
e-mail: noemachaplin[at]

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