Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Printable version

Human rights watchdog calls on governments to end violence against women and girls

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) today published its analysis of the UK and Welsh Governments’ performance in upholding the Istanbul Convention, which commits both governments to tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG). The report looks at the progress made in protecting women and girls across England and Wales from violence. 

Under the Istanbul Convention, the UK and Welsh Governments are bound by international law to take action to address this important issue. This includes prevention activities, prosecuting those responsible and safeguarding survivors.  

The EHRC welcomes both governments’ ambitious targets to improve women and girls’ safety, as well as their focus on driving improvements and criminalising emerging forms of violence such as cyberflashing, which was included in the Online Safety Act.

However, there is still work to do to make meeting these targets a reality for women and girls. Areas for urgent improvement highlighted by the report include:

  • Violence perpetrated by the police: Data from the National Police Chief’s Council found that in just a six-month period between October 2021 and March 2022, there were more than 1,400 unique allegations of violence against women and girls recorded against 1,539 members of the police workforce in England and Wales.
  • Prosecution rates: Despite the scale reported, prosecution rates for sexual offences remain unacceptably low.
  • Access to domestic abuse refuges: Access to domestic abuse refuges is also concerningly poor, with only 1.1% of vacancies at refuges being suitable for women with limited mobility. Fewer than 1% were suitable for wheelchair users in 2021/22.

Britain’s equality watchdog makes recommendations which will help both the UK and Welsh Governments improve women and girls’ safety. This includes the UK Government prioritising further action to address the prevalence of violence against women and girls perpetrated by the police. As the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has recommended, this should include ensuring the removal of warrant cards from police officers who are under investigation for crimes relating to violence against women and girls; and statutory recognition that VAWG convictions should automatically constitute gross misconduct. 

The EHRC is also calling on the UK Government to withdraw its reservation to Article 59 of the Istanbul Convention.

The reservation means migrant women who are victims of violence are not adequately protected. While the UK Government has signed up to a range of obligations to protect women from such violence, it has not accepted the responsibility to ensure that all migrant women have access to independent residency rights in certain cases of relationship breakdown connected to domestic abuse.

This means that some migrant women experiencing domestic abuse, and their children, are left at risk of further abuse or destitution.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: 

“Violence against women and girls can have awful, long-lasting effects, and it is essential that more progress is made to permanently remove it from our society.

“Ahead of International Women’s Day, we urge the UK and Welsh governments to look closely at our report and implement its recommendations, so we can move towards a society where women and girls feel safe going about their everyday lives.”

Notes to Editors

  • The Istanbul Convention is monitored by the Group of Experts on Violence Against Women (GREVIO). They are currently undertaking a ‘baseline assessment’ of the UK’s compliance with the Convention.
  • Article 59 of the Convention relates to residency status. It states that victims whose residency depends on a spouse or partner are granted, in some circumstances, an autonomous residence permit, if said marriage or relationship is dissolved. However, the UK Government has placed a reservation on the whole of Article 59, with a commitment to review the reservation based on evidence from a separate, short-term pilot project on the Support for Migrant Victims Scheme.
  • The UK Government does run a scheme that allows victims of domestic abuse with a spousal/partner visa to apply for indefinite leave to remain the UK. However, women on other visa types are not eligible for this scheme, even though their immigration status may still be dependent on an abusive partner. For example, women who have leave to remain as a dependent of a partner who is on a student visa would be excluded. 
  • The EHRC recognises the immigration system is complex and overly burdened. It is essential that the UK Government work with specialist organisations to ensure that rights are upheld without abuse of the system.
Channel website: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en

Original article link: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/media-centre/news/human-rights-watchdog-calls-governments-end-violence-against-women-and-girls

Share this article

Latest News from
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

intelligent automation