Amidst the torrent of bad, unsettling, depressing and even ‘fake’ news there has been a glimmer of light: in April a bill was passed to timetable the government to ratify (make official) the Istanbul Convention – the gold standard in legislation for the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence.
This significant victory in the battle to secure the protection of women and girls was some of the best news we’ve had in a while!
IC Change, group who have been leading the campaign have released this statement to explain why this is good news:
The bill’s successful passage through the Commons and Lords marks one of the greatest political achievements for the safety of women in history. The government must now report on its progress to bring other areas of the law in line with the terms of the Istanbul Convention.
A Bill to timetable the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, the gold standard in legislation against all forms of gender-based violence including so-called “honour crimes” and FGM, has successfully passed its third reading at the House of Lords. This means it will soon be passed into law and require the Government to provide progress reports on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
Rachel Nye, co-director of IC Change, said: “We are thrilled at the success of the Bill at third reading. It is a testament to the hard work of Dr Eilidh Whiteford and the team of cross party MPs who have supported it along the way. We look forward to this Bill becoming law and seeing progress towards the end goal – the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
“We do this campaigning in our spare time. We do it because we are acutely aware of the impact violence against women has on our society. Many excellent services exist to support women and to tackle the root causes of these problems, but without a government-led, joined up approach, we are not achieving our full potential and women remain at risk.”
Cat*, a survivor who campaigns with IC Change, emphasised just how much this news means to British women: “Having witnessed the impact of abuse on my mother, and finding out my sister endured an abusive relationship I realised that these things don’t happen in isolation. I was also raped, and I experienced everyday sexism and harassment on an almost daily basis from the age of 12. To change this, we need to an approach which joins up the dots and tackles the root causes of abuse.”
On 16th December 2016 and again on 24th February, 135 MPs from across all parties voted* in favour of the bill in the House of Commons. This legislation is needed because, on average, two women in England and Wales are killed every week by a current or former male partner and at least one in five women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.
The UK Government signed a commitment to seeing it through almost five years ago, but the government have so far failed to honour their promise.
SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP originally put forward the bill, preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (ratification of Convention) 2016-17.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, who brought forward the Bill, said: “I brought forward this Bill because the Istanbul Convention has the potential to change the lives of women in my own constituency of Banff and Buchan, across the whole of the UK and also globally. The Convention is the gold standard for legislation to prevent and combat violence against women and girls, and domestic violence. ”Since I started the process of bringing forward this Bill in June 2016, the Government have moved quite significantly – with the PM committing to overseeing new legislation on domestic violence. This could be, if the Government want it to be, the legislative vehicle to bring the UK into full compliance with the convention, paving the way for ratification. ”I’m very pleased to have been able to steer through legislation, but it’s only the beginning. Now we’ll be holding the Government to account on their report and timetable for ratification. I won’t stop this work until the UK ratifies the Istanbul Convention.”
This Bill also had backing from women’s organisations across the country including all federations of Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis, and Southall Black Sisters”.