Tackling violence against women in Wales

Blog post on VAW Bill by Hannah Austin

International Day to End Violence Against Women is this Sunday, 25th November – a time when campaigners and women’s organisations worldwide take stock of both how far we’ve come in the fight against gender-based violence, and how far we have yet to go before women and girls are safe.

This year, the violence against women sector in Wales has a lot to celebrate – and a lot of hard work ahead. In 2011, the First Minister announced that the Welsh Government would be introducing a Domestic Abuse (Wales) Bill. The announcement was welcomed, albeit with some trepidation that the title was limited to domestic abuse only. We have since received reassurance that the legislation will cover all forms of violence against women.

 The Wales Violence Against Women Action Group – a broad-based coalition of organisations from across Wales – has just released our second authoritative report, Priorities for the Violence Against Women (Wales) Bill. The report outlines six key outcomes that the legislation must deliver in order to make a real difference to women in Wales:

  • Reduction in the prevalence of all forms of violence against women, and support for women who experience such violence;
  • Equal access to specialist support services for women across Wales;
  • Compulsory initiatives in schools and other educational settings to prevent violence against women before it starts, and for supporting pupils affected by such violence;
  • Appropriate and timely interventions, referrals and signposting as a result of improved health responses to violence against women, and
  • Employers know how to help female employees affected by violence against women.

The new legislation provides an excellent opportunity for Wales to take a truly ground-breaking approach to tackling violence against women, the prevalence of which remains unacceptably high in Wales, as highlighted in the Action Group’s 2013 calendar, launched alongside the new report.

In the next year in Wales:

  • 50,769 women will experience a total of 203,075 incidents of domestic abuse but 
there will only be 3,385 successful convictions;
  • 29 women will seek help to deal with forced marriage;
  • 2,485 sexual offences against women will recorded by the police – however it is estimated only 12% of victims report to the police;
  • 23 women will be victims of trafficking;
  • 278 rape cases will be prosecuted – but there will only be 146 successful convictions;
  • 30 women will experience so-called ‘honour’-based violence;
  • 7 women will die at the hands of their male partners or ex-partners;
  • 1904 women will access refuges due to fleeing from domestic abuse;
  • 57 women with no recourse to public funding will be turned away from refuge;
  • 2,949 women experiencing domestic abuse will ring the All Wales Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline;
  • 149 women will ring BAWSO’s helpline for women in minority ethnic communities who might be facing violence;
  • 18 girls will experience female genital mutilation. 

The Welsh Government has made good progress on the violence against women agenda in recent years, and this new legislation is an opportunity to build upon that progress. For the new Bill to make a concrete difference to women’s lives, it must be informed by the priorities, evidence and recommendations within our new, authoritative report. We now look forward to working with the Welsh Government and the Assembly Members who will vote on the Bill. We have to get this right and deliver real improvements for women in Wales. We won’t get a second chance.

Hannah Austin

Welsh Women’s Aid