As campaigners mark White Ribbon Day today, Labour has accused the government of rejecting 50 proposals to end violence against women and girls
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Ministers stand accused of failing to protect women after rejecting 50 Labour proposals to end violence.
Jess Phillips, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, has hit out at the Government on White Ribbon Day – an international campaign started by men in London in the 1990s.
She told the Mirror: “Time and time again the government has failed to act with the urgency that this epidemic of violence against women and girls needs.
“The fear and abuse that so many women and girls face on a daily basis is not inevitable – there are many policies and legislative changes, that are ready to be rolled out today, that would save lives.
“Yet the government continues to reject or ignore them.
“Enough is enough.”
Here is the full list of Labour ’s proposals that the government have rejected or ignored:
- A seven-year minimum sentence for rape. Conservative MPs blocked an amendment to the Police and Crime Sentencing Bill to introduce this.
- A minimum jail term for stalking. As it stands, there is still no minimum custodial term for stalking. Courts can impose sentences of “up to six months”. If the stalking includes the victim being made to fear violence, the maximum sentence is 10 years.
- Statutory defences for survivors of domestic abuse who are driven to offend due to the abuse suffered.
- Making street harassment a crime . The Government has so far refused to do this, with Boris Johnson said to believe current laws are sufficient.
- Fast tracking rape and serious sexual assault cases through the courts. The Government is looking at how cases can be brought forward more quickly but has not committed to this.
- Make misogyny a hate crime. The Government has so far refused to do this, with Boris Johnson said to believe current laws are sufficient.
- Forcing local authorities to back a strategies to prevent and reduce to end violence against women. The Home Office has put out a directive that gives violence against women and girls the same status as terrorism, but this has not been put on a statutory footing for councils.
- Whole life tariffs for those who rape, abduct and murder a person. It is possible for judges to hand down this sentence where someone is convicted but it is not the minimum term.
- Making the offer of ‘sex for rent’ a crime. The Government has underlined that the Sex Offences Act bans inciting prostitution for gain but securing a prosecution for offering ‘sex for rent’ requires the victim to identify as a prostitute. Labour wants to create a specific offence that puts the responsibility with the landlord.
- Jail terms of 2 years for those who name victims of rape and sexual assault. Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said he was looking at raising the sentence from six months to two years, but the move has yet to be confirmed.
- Training all professionals dealing with rape victims on rape myths and stereotypes . The Government has not committed to doing this.
- Boosting Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs), to monitor offenders . The Government has not yet committed to doing this.
- A statutory duty on courts to recognise independent sexual violence advisors and independent domestic violence advisors. The Government has yet to back this policy, despite advisors having a close relationship with victims.
- Free and independent legal advice and representation for victims . A service has been piloted in the Northumbria Police area but not introduced nationally.
- Offering legal aid in domestic abuse cases without means testing. Public finding for domestic abuse cases is limited and victims say homes, often a source of disputes with the perpetrator, are used as capital in means-testing.
- Make prosecution work for Rape and Serious Sexual Offences a named permanent specialism within the CPS. The Government has not yet committed to this.
- Rape and Serious Sexual Offences in local police forces and training on specific issues faced by Black, Asian, minority ethnic, LGBT+, disabled and migrant women. The Government has not committed to this.
- A statutory ‘firewall’ to stop cops sharing a domestic abuse victim’s immigration details of victims with the Home Office. As it stands, this is not protected information between cops and the Home Office.
- Monitoring serial domestic abusers and stalkers, and recording offences on a register. A new category for such offences is yet to be created.
- Strengthening laws to protect kids and parents from abusive adults. As it stands, the Children Act presumes the involvement of a parent will further a child’s welfare. Labour wants a new framework that takes into account when there has been evidence of domestic abuse to the child or other parent.
- Stop parents awaiting trial or bail for domestic abuse having unsupervised contact with kids. Labour says it must be ensured that all child contact centres have to be accredited.
- Create a VAWG Bill and measure the progress made. In its VAWG Bill, Labour would replicate and build on provisions under section (11)(1) of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015, meaning Ministers must publish indicators that can be applied for the purpose of measuring progress towards the achievement of the purpose of the Act.
- Bring in new national indicators to also reflect the intersectional nature victims. The impact on Black, Asian and ethnic minority, LGBT+, disabled and migrant women should be monitored.
- Set a deadline for the violence against women treaty. Set out a clear, strict timetable of completing outstanding actions needed to ratify the Istanbul Convention in full.
- Create a stand-alone ministerial position on VAWG . Labour says oversight is needed solely for rape and sexual violence survivors. And a commitment to a cross departmental approach involving the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and public health departments is needed.
- All victims in the UK should be able to access housing. Ensure that provisions under the Immigration Acts – including exclusion from public funds, certain types of support and assistance and the right to rent – do not apply to survivors of domestic abuse.
- Ensure landlords provide adequate housing for victims. Review the granting of enhanced housing benefit to providers of ‘exempt accommodation’ targeted at domestic abuse victims and ensure that unscrupulous providers or landlords cannot profit from the provision of substandard or inappropriate accommodation.
- All authorities must be able to help victims. Place a duty on all relevant public authorities to commission specialist domestic abuse support services for all persons affected by domestic abuse.
- Long term financial settlements. Labour has called for multi-year financial settlements so support service providers can plan for the long-term. Labour would introduce specific funding streams to support specialist services for migrant victims, Black, Asian and ethnic minority victims, LGBT+ victims and disabled victims.
- Bolster teacher training on helping child victims. The Government must ensure there is training for teachers to help identify, respond to and support child victims of domestic abuse.
- Hold national data on sexual harassment in schools, colleges and universities . As it stands, only national polls set out harassment that has took place within education systems. The Government say these matters are to be dealt with by police.
- Review safeguarding inspections at schools. Labour has called for a review of the inspections process. The Government set up a review into sexual abuse in schools, but have not reached a conclusion on how kids can be protected before they are assaulted.
- Repeal the rape clause for social security claims. In 2015, the Tories introduced measures changes to Universal Credit, which was then Child Tax Credit. The Government has been accused of forcing victims of rape to “prove” they have been raped in order to receive child benefits. This has not been changed despite mounting fury.
- Review single payments for Universal Credit. For women enduring domestic abuse, single household payments can be problematic. Abusive partners may control their partner with financial abuse. The APPG on Universal Credit found 20% of women said their partner was financially controlling during the pandemic. Labour is calling on the Government to make it swifter to separate funds for each partner.
- End the five weeks wait for Universal Credit payment, to ensure domestic abuse survivors can access the support they need quickly. Campaigners have noted, domestic abusers use child contact as a means to continue controlling their partners, even once they have fled. The five weeks wait between a UC claim and receiving the benefit limits women’s ability to support themselves and their children as they rebuild their lives.
- Collect and review Parliament data on child deaths involving homicide. The NSPCC believes data currently underestimates how many children have died due to abuse or neglect because it is legal tricky to prove home, the cause of death can be misdiagnosed and sometimes it is left unexplained.
- Domestic abuse victims must be able to get legal aid / free legal advice before anyone can scan their electronic devices for evidence of abuse.
- Protect disabled victims of domestic abuse. Labour have called on the Government to extend the definition of ‘personally connected’ in the Domestic Abuse Act.
- Protect disabled victims from carers in law . Labour has called on the Government to remove the legal defence that enables a carer (of a disabled victim) was ‘acting in best interests’ in coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship.
- Child domestic abuse victims on school or NHS waiting lists. If a child is moved for safety purposes as a result of domestic abuse, this won’t affect children on NHS waiting lists or school admission lists.
- Assess how benefits cuts affect survivors. Labour believes the Government has a duty to assess the impact of welfare reforms on survivors of domestic abuse. No review has been conducted.
- Time off for domestic abuse victims. Provision of 10 days leave from employment for victims of domestic abuse, the Government are yet to act on this.
- Perpetrator programmes to be of a quality-assured standard.
- A mandatory Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO) review process. We need to see a transparent and thorough review of DAPOs with expert and lived experience input before a national roll out. It is essential for this review to have input from the Domestic Abuse and Victim’s Commissioners, specialist domestic abuse sector and survivors, and that this review is given appropriate consideration before any national roll out.
- Protect victim’s locations. The government must roll out court orders so refuge locations cannot be revealed, leaving abusers to find out where a victim is.
- Brain health for domestic abuse cases . Labour says mandatory (with the individual’s consent) brain injury screening should take place for Domestic Abuse cases and female prisoners.
- Domestic abuse victims should not need a ‘local connection’ when applying for social housing . Labour has called for the ‘local connection’ need to be removed as victims should be able to escape to any borough.
- Support victims on joint tenancies. Facilitating the removal of one joint tenant from a tenancy agreement where there has been domestic or other violence.
- Bail for violence against women and girls. The initial bail period for cases of domestic abuse should be extended from 28 days to 3 months.
- Protect women and girls from indecent exposure. Review the law around exposure (flashing), under section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will protect women and girls by keeping the most serious sexual and violent offenders locked up for even longer. We will announce any amendments in due course.”