Wednesday 25 November 2009

EVAW Coalition urges funding for women's services to deliver government violence against women strategy

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) warmly welcomes today’s announcement of a cross-government strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women including rape, domestic violence, trafficking and forced marriage. It sees this as a vital step towards the government fulfilling its human rights obligations and ending abuse of women and girls. All main political parties support a strategy, as does the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

But the Coalition warns that the strategy will only be effective if properly resourced and women will judge the strategy in terms of its impact on frontline women’s services. Women consulted for the strategy told the government they not only needed these services, but that, in some instances, they had literally saved their lives.

Professor Liz Kelly, EVAW Chair, said:

“Hundreds of thousands of women are affected by violence each year and the vast majority do not report to the police or disclose to health services. For too long there has been a fractured approach with key government departments, such as education and health, failing to meet their responsibilities. So we warmly welcome the government’s commitment to a more joined up approach that focuses on stopping violence and abuse of women and girls before it starts.

However, we know that women still face a postcode lottery when seeking support and much funding for existing services, such as rape crisis centres, refuges and services for ethnic minority women, is increasingly fragile. Women across the country will be dismayed if the strategy does not include a coherent plan for secure and sustainable funding for vital frontline women’s services”

The EVAW coalition says the strategy must;

• Join up policies and services across government at national and local levels, including on health, education and immigration.

• Stop violence and abuse of women in the first place through campaigns to change attitudes and work with young people in schools, rather than just picking up the pieces afterwards through the courts and criminal justice system.

• Guarantee adequate resources to deliver the strategy, particularly
funding for frontline women’s services that support victims, such asrefuges, rape crisis centres and services for ethnic minority women, many of which are threatened with closure.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

'Women's rights groups say government provisions not enough', 12th November

Today, the UK government announced a pilot scheme for women experiencing domestic violence but who cannot access safe housing and support due to their insecure immigration status.

The scheme will provide funding for a woman with ‘no recourse to public funds’ in a refuge for up to 40 days pending an application to remain in the UK under the Domestic Violence Rule. The scheme will run for three months, following which there will be a review as to its effectiveness.

Leading violence against women and human rights organisations give a cautious welcome to this initiative recognising that this is ‘a step in the right direction’. However they call on the government to ensure that all abused women have sufficient access to protection and safety when they need it for as long as they need it.

Hannana Siddiqui of SBS says:

‘We are pleased that our concerns about previous proposals to help abused and destitute women have been scrapped and that the government has recognised that women with insecure immigration status are entitled to protection and access to safety from violence and abuse. But we remain concerned that the proposals do not go far enough. We would like to see a more realistic and permanent solution that reflects the reality of women’s experiences of violence and abuse and the immense problems they encounter in accessing support, thus ending a stark choice between destitution or further violence ‘

Experience across the UK shows that supporting women with no recourse to public funds is a complex and time consuming process. Women fleeing domestic violence are often too traumatised by their experiences to tackle intrusive questioning on complex social, housing and immigration issues. Further, it is extremely difficult to access appropriate, timely legal aid solicitors and it takes considerable time to gather the necessary evidence, including police and medical reports that are necessary in order to qualify for permanent stay in the UK.

Campaigners are also deeply concerned that the short term scheme will only afford protection to women who have entered the UK as a spouse or intimate partner. It will not apply to women on student visas, over-stayers, those on temporary work permits, trafficked women and asylum seekers.

One London organisation this year found that only 9 out of 429 women with No Recourse to Public Funds were housed. It is impossible to say what happened to the remaining 420 – it is likely that they were compelled to return to violent and life threatening relationships.

Specialist black and minority women’s organisations and refuges, in particular, are feeling the impact of increased referrals for support for women with no recourse to public funds and decreasing funding streams. Under the pilot scheme, the burden will still fall to front-line women’s services that are already marginalised and under-funded.

This is why a permanent solution which offers adequate protection and support to all women is desperately needed. Under international human rights obligations, including recommendations under CEDAW and the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 2,3,8), States have a responsibility to act with due diligence, that is with due care and effort, to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all women within their jurisdiction.

‘If the Government is serious about meeting its human rights obligations, it must exempt women experiencing violence from the No Recourse rule and provide up-front, sustainable funding to women’s organisations.’ (Kara Beavis, Women’s Resource Centre )

We seek a pre-election commitment from the government to a permanent solution.

Women's Resource Centre, Campaign to Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Response to “Women’s refuges told they must admit men”, The Observer Sunday 5th April

We write to express our serious concern that some local authorities still misunderstand and misinterpret the Gender Equality Duty: the most important piece of equality legislation for women in Britain since the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 (“Women’s refuges told they must admit men”, Sunday 5th April).

The Gender Equality Duty requires public bodies, including councils and government departments, to take steps to eliminate discrimination and promote equality between women and men. It is intended to ensure that the needs of women and men are met in an appropriate and proportionate manner, not through a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Women are far more likely to experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage and other forms of gender-based violence. Single sex services remain lawful and legitimate if they meet specific and identified needs, such as addressing these issues.

Quite simply, men are not subjected to the same dangers and do not have the same needs. Indeed, as stated by the Solicitor General to Parliament in May 2008, not only does the Duty not mean an end to women-only services, the government positively encourages public bodies to be proactive in tackling violence against women through these services. Single sex services are completely lawful and legitimate if they meet specific and identified needs. They do not breach any equality laws; in fact, specific guidance is provided in the Gender Equality Duty to support such services.
Nevertheless, problems remain and in July 2008, the UN Committee to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) called upon the Government to “ensure that the Gender Equality Duty is interpreted and applied properly so that women-only services and other activities of women’s organisations are not negatively affected”.
The Government and Local Authorities surely must adhere to this mandate from the UN, or risk finding themselves in breach of international and domestic equality legislation.

Signed by:
Professor Liz Kelly, Chair, End Violence Against Women Campaign (EVAW)
Holly Dustin, Campaign Manager, (EVAW)
Vivienne Hayes, Director, Women’s Resource Centre
Newham Asian Women’s Project
Southall Black Sisters
Women's Aid
Dr Hilary Abrahams, Research Fellow, Violence against Women Group School for Policy Studies University of Bristol
Jo Aldridge, Loughborough University
Julie Chalder-Mills, Sheffiled University
Catherine Donovan PhD, Reader in Sociology, University of Sunderland
Dr Geetanjali Gangoli, Violence against Women Group School for Policy Studies University of Bristol
Dr Aisha Gill, Criminologist, Roehampton University/Newham Asian Women’s Project
Nicola Harwin CBE, Chief Executive, Women's Aid
Ms Nancy Lombard, Lecturer in Sociology Edinburgh Napier University
Professor Vanessa Munro, School of Law University of Nottingham
Dr Nicole Westmarland, School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University
Dr Sue Griffiths, Senior Researcher, University of Sunderland
Dr Terry Gillespie, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Nottingham Trent University
Nesta Lloyd – Jones, Welsh Women's Aid
Dr Ellen Malos, Senior University Research Fellow, School for Policy Studies
University of Bristol
Dr Maggie O'Neill, Loughborough University
MACSAS - Minister & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors
Professor Jill Radford, University of Teeside
Professor Paula Nicolson, Royal Holloway, University of London,
Carol Rivas, Research Fellow, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Dr Cathy Roberts
Ruth Swirsky, Principal Lecturer in Sociology, University of Westminster
Jo Todd, Chief Executive Officer, Respect
Dr Nicole Westmarland, School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University
Karen Bailey, Greater London Domestic Violence Project

Friday 13 March 2009

CPS to apologise to family of woman murdered by abusive husband

Justice in the eyes of those who were close to Sabina Akhtar will not be fully realised if lessons are not learnt from this tragic case. Those who handled the case at the CPS must be held accountable for failing to protect young women like Sabina. We need to understand why it was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge her husband who, after release from prison, breached his bail conditions and murdered his wife a few days later. A public inquiry is imperative and the IPCC should not procrastinate in ensuring the family get the answers they deserve. In the meantime, how many times do such cases of violence need to be reported to get a response?

This case shows that, despite repeated attacks from her husband (26 in all), violence against black and minority-ethnic women is not seen as a serious crime requiring a policy of deterrence and, concomitantly, harsh punishment for offenders. Despite the fact that there have been national guidelines introduced by the CPS in preventing violence against women, and also training for those who handle such cases, women are still being failed and the issue of victim credibility questioned. In other cases related to BME women, public confidence and trust in the system will not grow, and lessons not be learnt, unless criminal justice agencies accept culpability when they make mistakes and act to rectify them. This is essential in order to bring real change in the efforts to save the lives of vulnerable women. In the case of Sabina Akhtar, it will come too late…

Dr Aisha Gill
Chair of NAWP

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Max Mosley and the campaign on privacy laws

Having successfully sued the News of the World over allegations that his use of prostitutes for sado-masochistic sex involved Nazi undertones, Max Mosley, motor sport boss, has begun a campaign to promote further laws on privacy. The BBC quote Max Mosley as saying, "I think most people recognise there are some human activities that people prefer to do in private...With sex, it would in my opinion be very, very rare that the public have any need-to-know basis for their interest whatsoever." That Mosley did engage five prostitutes for sex is undisputed. The issue which Mosley successfully fought on was one of the defamatory nature of being associated with Nazism. Given the strong links between prostitution and trafficking and violence against women, this blog argues that any man who engages prostitutes waives his right of privacy for his sexual activity. It is strongly in the public interest for all who support an end to violence against women to know which men in public life continue to be involved in a trade that exploits women in this way. We are entitled to continue to view Max Mosley as morally reprehensible in this regard.

Abuse survivor


Friday 15 August 2008

A Charter of Rights for women seeking asylum

Shawna Spoor, Refugee Women's Resource Project

The UK government has established a forced marriage unit to save British citizens facing forced marriage abroad. Rape, domestic violence and honour crimes have all seen gender-sensitive practices develop around their handling in the criminal justice system. But a woman entering the United Kingdom seeking asylum from similar practices and crimes at home faces a far less gender-sensitive and understanding environment. Women seeking asylum are often doing so from a truly unique perspective; fleeing problems which men and often women from different cultural backgrounds would never face; female genital mutilation, honour killing, or forced marriage. Because of these and many other issues facing women seeking asylum the Refugee Women’s Resource Project at Asylum Aid, in consultation with a number of specialist organisations in the refugee, women’s and human rights sectors, has produced a Charter of rights of women seeking asylum.

Asylum Aid believes that the UK Border Agency could learn lessons from the criminal justice system and respond to women’s cases with similar standards. The women’s asylum charter covers all aspects of the end-to-end asylum process: the asylum determination system, accommodation, welfare, detention and removal. Ensuring fair treatment for women who are claiming asylum means that the Refugee Convention needs to be interpreted in a gender sensitive way. Actions suggested in the Charter include that the UK Border Agency should undertake gender impact assessments in relation to all asylum policies, train their staff to improve the quality of decision-making in relation to women’s claims and end the detention of families with children.

Since the Home Office incorporated its Asylum Policy Instruction on gender issues in the asylum claim in March 2004, the UK Border Agency has made some further progress but initiatives have tended to be piecemeal suggesting a failure to recognise gender as an underlying factor fundamental to creating a fair system. In addition there is, too often, a disconnection between the policy and the operational parts of the UK Border Agency, particularly on gender issues.

A multi-layered strategy is being developed to promote the Charter. This includes using the Charter as the basis for discussions with the UK Border Agency through formal stakeholders meetings and informal negotiations, setting up a Google group to provide a network for feedback between people working on the actions suggested in the Charter and holding a series of workshops to discuss with practitioners how to cooperate on promoting these issues. Thus organisations are being asked to endorse the Charter and, in doing so, commit themselves to promoting those actions which are within their sphere of influence (eg an NGO working for detained asylum seekers would promote the actions to do with detention).

The Charter has already been endorsed by 20 organisations including: Amnesty International UK, Bail for Immigration Detainees, End Violence Against Women Campaign, Fawcett Society, Liberty, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, Refugee Women’s Association. and Rights of Women. For your organisation to endorse the Charter or to join the Google group, please go to

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