Tackling violence against women in Wales

New Bill needs to be strengthened to tackle violence against women in Wales

The Wales Violence Against Women Action Group has issued a statement in response to the Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill introduced to the Assembly on 30 June.

Statement from the Wales Violence Against Women Action Group

Embargoed for release 00.01 30 June 2014

NEW BILL NEEDS TO BE STRENGTHENED TO TACKLE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN WALES

The campaigning group representing the organisations across Wales who campaign to tackle violence against women and girls in Wales expressed disappointment that the ground-breaking Violence Against Women (VAW) Bill[i] announced by the Welsh Government in 2012 has been substantially altered ahead of its publication today (Monday).

The purpose of the Bill as first announced was to send a signal across Wales that the high levels of violence against women in all its forms, including sexual violence, domestic abuse, trafficking, forced marriage, sexual harassment and FGM, was simply unacceptable. The legislation would include a better way of ensuring victims across Wales had better support, and that a real focus was given to prevention of violence, education and challenging attitudes.

We are deeply concerned that the nature of the Bill seems now to be gender-neutral, and its core purpose may have been diluted. Having yet seen the full detail of the Bill, we understand that it will include a national strategy, guidance for public bodies and a ministerial adviser. If these are enshrined in a gender-neutral fashion, then not only with the commitments made by the Welsh Government be broken, but it could be a step backwards, tying future governments’ hands and ensuring that no Welsh Government can deliver the best practice in this area.

We are very pleased that there will be an external Adviser, which the Wales VAW Action Group has been advocating for some time, in order to address the current deficit in leadership, accountability and independent scrutiny of public bodies towards the VAW agenda in Wales. This adviser should be specifically focused on Violence Against Women, and not enshrined in a gender-neutral fashion.

We welcome the inclusion of a national strategy, a duty on Local Authorities and Local Health Boards, campaigns to change behaviour, and a national training framework. Again, we must ensure that these strategies recognise that these forms of violence are primarily directed against women.

We remain greatly concerned about the potential lack of emphasis on prevention, particularly in schools and other educational settings as we regard this as of the highest priority. It would be a great opportunity lost not to generate real changes in schools through access to advice and specialist knowledge.

We look forward to working with the Welsh Government and Assembly Members as the Bill progresses through the Assembly to strengthen the Bill and ensure it has real impact on women’s lives in Wales.

Ends

Notes

The Wales VAW Group is an umbrella body that campaigns to tackle violence against women in Wales for many years – more information can be found at www.www.walesvawgroup.co.uk

Studies have shown[ii] that women suffer a greater amount and more severe abuse from male partners:

  • Women were victims in 94% of the domestic abuse cases reaching conviction in 2010;
  • Nearly 2500 sexual assaults against women are reported in Wales each year;
  • Some 30 women will report honour-based violence, with 23 reporting forced marriage;
  • FGM is a well-known practice in some communities in Wales. It is estimated 18 or more will be victims each year[iii];
  • Each year, 7 women will die at the hands of a male partner or family member.

 


[ii] M. Hester (2009) Who Does What to Whom? Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators, Bristol: University of Bristol in association with the Northern Rock Foundation.

[iii] Wales Violence Against Women Action Group (2012). 2013 Calendar. Available online at www.www.walesvawgroup.co.uk.