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Government response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Sixth Report on Violence Against Women and Girls: Session 2014-2015

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most serious violations of human rights and a pervasive problem that we are committed to tackling both domestically and overseas. Latest data published from the Crime Survey for England and Wales for 2013/14 showed that an estimated 1.4 million women were victims of domestic abuse in the last year, 366,000 were victims of sexual assault and 82,000 were victims of rape. In addition, the Home Office Homicide Index showed that 85 women were killed by a partner or ex-partner.

The Coalition Government set out its vision to end VAWG in its strategy, A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls, published in 2010. Our focus has been underpinned by the principles of preventing violence from happening in the first place, providing support to victims, working in partnership, and reducing the risk to women and girls and bringing perpetrators to justice. These principles are as relevant today as they were in 2010 and are echoed throughout the action plans that we have developed to drive our work and which we have published each year over the last four years.

We have made significant progress towards ending all forms of violence against women and girls. This includes ensuring ongoing stable funding in key areas. The Government ring-fenced £40 million of funding up to 2015 for specialist local services and national helplines and, more recently, announced an additional £10 million for refuges up to March 2016. We have also announced an uplift of £7million to support victims of sexual abuse over the next two years to provide a critical bedrock of support to victims.

We have introduced legislation and law enforcement tools across England and Wales including new stalking offences, criminalisation of forced marriage, creation of a new offence of coercive and controlling behaviour in relation to domestic abuse, expansion of the offence of possessing extreme 16Tpornographic images to cover those images depicting non-consensual penetration and rape, criminalisation of the16T behaviour known as revenge pornography (disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress), national roll out of Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as Clare’s Law) and Domestic Violence Protection Orders, and we are driving a step-change in the response to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK. For the first time, we have created a mandatory requirement for all regulated healthcare, social care professionals, and teachers to report FGM to the police.

As well as new legislation and enforcement tools we are also working to reform frontline agencies’ response to VAWG. For example, we are driving a culture change in the police response through Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s review into domestic abuse, we are professionalising social care, and we have issued new guidance and training for healthcare professionals.

The Government also recognises the need to change attitudes and influence behaviour, starting with the young, including addressing myths around consent and non violent abuse amongst young people. Our national campaign, This is Abuse, encourages teenagers to re-think their views about rape, consent, violence and abuse. We also developed ‘In the Know’ which reaches out to young men and boys to help promote positive relationships, help them identify and challenge abusive behaviour; thereby contributing to the wider cultural awareness that violence is unacceptable.

In the summer of 2014, we hosted two major events: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict which brought together international leaders around the world to agree practical action to tackle impunity for using rape as a weapon of war and to begin to change global attitudes to these crimes. We hosted the first ever Girl Summit to rally a global movement to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage in a generation, and demonstrate this Government’s commitment to tackling these issues both here and overseas. At the Summit, the UK announced an unprecedented package of measures to tackle FGM in the UK. This included a number of commitments to strengthen the law, improve the law enforcement response, support frontline professionals and work with communities to prevent abuse.

Our recent Progress Report, published on 8 March 2015, sets out what we have done over the past five years to address violence against women and girls both domestically and internationally, including our commitment to work towards ratifying the Istanbul Convention. We are proud of what we have achieved. We recognise

there is still much more to do but we are determined to make the lives of women and girls free from violence not just for the current generation but for the generations to come.