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Call for evidence

Violence against women and girls

Background

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) takes many forms and affects women and girls in many different ways. Recent cases and the outpouring of stories shared by women and girls across the country have brought into sharp focus the endemic problems. The facts speak for themselves:

  • Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales.
  • Up to 700,000 women are stalked each year, while it is estimated that one in five women will experience stalking in their adult life.
  • Between April 2020 and February 2021, there was an increase of 61% in calls and contacts logged on Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline. 72% of those supported by the helpline were women experiencing abuse.
  • In the year ending September 2020 there was a 10% increase in the total number of domestic abuse-related offences recorded by the police (842,813 offences) compared with the previous year.
  • It is estimated that approximately 60,000 girls, born in England and Wales and aged 0 to 14, have mothers who had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Approximately 10,000 girls aged under 15 who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM.
  • In 2019, at least 1,080 women and girls were victims of a forced marriage.

The United Nations defines violence against women as: any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. This inquiry will look at what action is being taken to end the scourge of violence against women and girls, and how violence against women and girls is currently being addressed by Government, the police and the wider criminal justice system.  The Committee expects to focus on a series of different issues as part of this overarching inquiry, starting with the investigation and prosecution of rape, for which additional terms of reference are being issued. It will use information from this overarching call for evidence on violence against women and girls to inform its detailed future programme of work.

What is being done

On Saturday 13 March, the Government reopened its consultation for its 2021-24 Violence Against Women and Girls strategy, which had originally closed on 19 February. The Home Secretary announced on Monday 15 March that in that time it had received 78,000 additional responses. Since then, it has increased to at least 150,000.

The Domestic Abuse Bill is currently in the final stages of agreement between the House of Commons and the House of Lords and is expected to achieve Royal Assent during this Parliamentary session.  

The CPS launched its Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) 2025 strategy in 2020, and the CPS, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing are working together to improve disclosure though the joint National Disclosure Improvement Plan (NDIP), which was published in May 2018, and sets out what the three bodies have done, and will do, to improve disclosure.

The Government has signed, but not ratified, the Istanbul Convention. In evidence to the Lords International Agreements Committee on 1 February 2021, the Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, explained that the UK exceeded the requirements of the convention in all but three areas: psychological violence, extraterritorial jurisdiction, and non-discrimination relating to refugee or migrant status.

Initial terms of reference

The Committee invites evidence on the following points, to inform development of its future programme:

  • How VAWG affects women and girls. This may include:
    • Information on different forms and experiences of VAWG – for example rape, sexual harassment and abuse, domestic abuse, coercive control, street and online harassment, stalking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence and abuse – and the differences between addressing VAWG in the public and private spheres;
    • How VAWG has changed and how issues relating to VAWG are affected by modern technology, for example the use of social media and online dating sites, sexting, revenge porn and the accessibility of explicit pornography;
    • How VAWG affects young women and girls including in school and education institutions, in public places and online;
    • How VAWG affects particular groups, such as migrant women, sex workers or women with protected characteristics;
    • The prevalence and effect of honour-based violence and other practices that may affect minority groups such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage;
    • How sexual violence is being normalised within relationships, including strangulation, and the influence of extreme or violent pornography;
    • How organisations that women and girls turn to for support and help engage with issues relating to VAWG and their role in tackling and preventing it.
  • How VAWG should be prevented and addressed. This may include:
    • The role information and education for both men and women play in protecting women and girls;
    • Whether there is sufficient and appropriate support available for victims;
    • What measures should be in place for perpetrators;
    • The role of organisations and institutions including the police and criminal justice system, schools, colleges and education institutions, employers and trade unions, social media companies, local community and specialist services;
    • What lessons should be learnt from the 2016-2020 Ending Violence against Women and Girls strategy when developing the Government’s 2021-2024 strategy;
    • How current Bills, such as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Domestic Abuse Bill and other recent legislation that has been introduced can address, or have addressed, the issue of VAWG; and
    • Steps towards ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

The Committee has also published separate terms of reference relating specifically to the investigation and prosecution of rape. If you wish to submit evidence on this issue, please click here.

Submissions on the initial terms of reference should be received by 12 noon on Tuesday 11 May 2021.

Click on the start button at the bottom of this page to submit written evidence.

 

Important information about making a submission

Written evidence must address the terms of reference as set out above, but please note that submissions do not have to address every point. Guidance on giving evidence to a select committee of the House of Commons is available here.

In line with the general practice of select committees the Home Affairs Committee is not able to take up individual cases. If you would like political support or advice you may wish to contact your local Member of Parliament.

The Committee will decide whether to accept each submission. If your submission is accepted by the Committee, it will usually be published online. It will then be available permanently for anyone to view. It can’t be changed or removed. If you have included your name or any personal information in your submission, that will normally be published too. Please consider how much personal information you want or need to share. If you include personal information about other people in your submission, the Committee may decide not to publish it. Your contact details will never be published.

Decisions about publishing evidence anonymously, or about accepting but not publishing evidence, are made by the Committee. If you would like to ask the Committee to accept your submission anonymously (meaning it will be published but without your name), or confidentially (meaning it won't be published at all), please say at the start of your evidence which of these you want to request, and tell us why. This lets the Committee know what you would like but the final decision will be taken by the Committee.

The Committee has discretion over which submissions it accepts as evidence, and which of those it then publishes on its website. We may anonymise or redact some of your submission if it is published. The Committee may decide to accept evidence on a confidential basis. Confidential submissions remain available to the Committee but are not published or referred to in public. All written evidence will be considered by the Committee, whether or not it is published.

If your evidence raises any safeguarding concerns about you, or other people, then the Committee has a duty to raise these with the appropriate safeguarding authority.

We can’t publish submissions that mention ongoing legal cases – contact us if you are not sure what this means for you.

Submissions should be received by 12 noon on Tuesday 11 May 2021.

Click on the start button at the bottom of this page to submit written evidence.

 

Signposting

We understand that the issues raised in this work may be sensitive or upsetting and the following organisations may be able to offer support or further information:  

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, the Government has published information about helplines and websites that may be able to help, including the National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247 

Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs)

Asian Women’s Resource Centre

The AWRC are part of a pan London partnership and on their Projects page give links to other community based organisations working in the same field.

Imkaan’s directory of specialist services for Black and minoritised women

Samaritans 116 123 

Other information about organisations that can advise on gender-based abuse and support victims and survivors is available from the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

Specialist support for Deaf and disabled people:

Stay Safe East

Advocacy and support for Deaf and disabled victims and survivors of abuse.

Phone: 0208 519 7241

Text: 07587 134 122

Email: enquiries@staysafe-east.org.uk

 

SignHealth

Advice and support for Deaf adults and young people experiencing domestic abuse.

Phone: 020 3947 2601

Text: 07800 003421

Email: da@signhealth.org.uk

 

Submissions should be received by 12 noon on Tuesday 11 May 2021.

Click on the start button below to submit written evidence.

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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