From the TUC

Why we are calling for the government to ratify the Istanbul Convention

25 Nov 2013, by Guest in Equality

Photo of brick wall with three silhouettes of fading houses over the top. Graphic taken from the front cover of 'A Growing Crisis of Unmet Need' - a report from Women's Aid

This week Women’s Aid is joining forces with the TUC in a campaign asking the government to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention).

The UK government have signed the Convention but not ratified it yet. Ratifying the convention will mean the government will have to bring its provisions into force through domestic policy and legislation; this will strengthen the protection of women escaping domestic violence.

There is still a long way to go for the UK to provide enough specialist gender-specific services for women and also support the voluntary sector organisations that are delivering those services to survivors of domestic violence that the Convention stipulates.

Recent research published by Women’s Aid, A Growing Crisis of Unmet Need, found that over the past three years that has been a significant change in funding and provision of domestic violence services in England. The main findings of the research included:

  • There are 98 more bed spaces in 2013 than in 2010 but there are 21 less specialist refuge providers
  • There has been a loss of 71 specialist non-refuge services but a gain of 24 generic non-refuge services 2010-13
  • Services for black and minority ethnic (BME) women have been disproportionately cut: 47% of services have experienced significant loss of funding according to Imkaan’s member survery 2011-12. Imkaan is the national body for Black and Minority Ethnic led organisations working to end violence against women and girls.

Ratifying the Convention will mean that the UK Government will have to invest in specialist gender-specific services and provide enough refuge spaces that women need. Women-only services are vital in enabling them to cope and recover from violence. Research by the Women’s Resource Centre, Why Women Only?,  found that,

“safety, both physical and emotional, is a key benefit of women-only services. As a result, women feel supported and comfortable. They become empowered and develop confidence, greater independence and higher self-esteem.”

Without these provisions more women and their children will be left trapped in violence, waiting for a safe space to escape to.

Ratifying the Convention will also mean the UK will have to tackle the root causes of domestic violence – the gender inequality and sexism in our society. Through ratification the government will have to make concerted efforts to promote culture change to challenge and eventually eradicate the gender stereotypes that creates the tacit acceptance of violence against women in our society. Only by challenging gender stereotypes and creating a culture where sexism is totally unacceptable will we ever begin to make progress on making women and children safe from male violence.

Ratifying the Istanbul Convention will send a clear signal that the UK will not tolerate violence against women and be a vital step in moving towards a society that enables women to escape, cope and recover from violence.

So please support our campaign by signing the petition and encouraging others to do the same.

GUEST POST:Clare Laxton is the Public Policy Manager for Women’s Aid and has previously worked in Policy and Public Affairs for sexual health charities FPA and Brook. She is also a trustee of youth leadership charity Changemakers.