Better late than never – UK Government signs Council of Europe convention on violence against women
Following my previous blogs on the UK Government’s failure to sign the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention (previously the CAHVIO Convention) on violence against women, I’m pleased to report that the government has now (very quietly) announced that it has signed up. The announcement was buried in the detail of the announcement about the proposal to criminalise forced marriage which dominated the headlines last week.
The forced marriage announcement is controversial and does not have the support of many women’s groups who believe that victims of forced marriage will be reluctant to prosecute their families so the problem will be driven yet further underground (a rather superficial analysis of the issue, by my own admission – if you’re interested in the arguments against criminalising forced marriage I recommend you read Imkaan’s statement). But the announcement that the government has finally signed CAHVIO is something we can and should support.
Just to recap, the Convention requires the government to:
- protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence;
- contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women;
- design a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence;
- promote international co-operation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence;
- provide support and assistance to organisations and law enforcement agencies to effectively co-operate in order to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.
This is not just a symbolic gesture. The UK may be streets ahead of many other countries in terms of our efforts to tackle violence against girls and women but that is not to say that we’ve got all the answers. Far from it.
According to the excellent EHRC and EVAW report Map of Gaps, each year, around 1 in ten women in Britain will experience rape and or other violence. One in four local authorities leave female victims of violence without the specialised support they need.
Map of Gaps was carried out in 2009. Since then specialist Violence Against Women and Girls services have been decimated by spending cuts. Freedom of Information requests by the False Economy website found that 31% of funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector from local authorities was cut between 2010/11 to 2011/12. That’s a reduction from £7.8 million to £5.4 million.
We’ve still got a long way to go. Signing this important international Convention is a step in the right direction.