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Violence against women and girls

4 February 2014

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Dr Hywel Francis MP, is today launching an inquiry into violence against women and girls (VAWG).

The Committee is undertaking this inquiry against the background of the rights of women and girls covered by the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention), yet to be ratified by the Government, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). 

In this context, the Committee is particularly keen to consider the extent to which issues relating to culture, custom, religion or tradition may be used as a justification for any acts of violence against women and girls and other serious human rights violations.

The Committee seeks evidence from anyone with an interest in the human rights issues raised by one or more of the following issues. Please also note that, depending on the evidence received, the Committee may conduct a further inquiry into one or more of these areas:

  • The Government’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention): the extent to which UK law, policy and practice are compliant with the Convention’s requirements and what more the Government needs to do domestically to enable the UK to ratify the Convention and to ensure the Convention’s effective implementation once ratified. Submissions may focus on particular aspects of the Convention, including the definition of VAWG and the obligations on the State to prevent VAWG (Chapter III), protect victims (Chapter IV), and to investigate VAWG (Chapter VI).
  • The adequacy of the Government’s response to CEDAW recommendations in relation to VAWG.
  • The extent to which the Government is fulfilling its positive obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to VAWG, including the positive obligations in Article 4 ECHR.
  • The extent to which the Government is already fulfilling the positive obligations that will be imposed by the Istanbul Convention, including encouraging the private sector, the information and communications technology sector and the media to set self-regulatory standards to prevent VAWG and to enhance respect for human dignity.
  • The extent to which the Government’s VAWG Strategy provides an effective, cross-Government  response.
  • VAWG and issues relating to culture, custom, religion, tradition: whether steps should be taken by the Government to address unacceptable justifications for VAWG.
  • The Government’s strategy for dealing with harmful marriage practices, such as forced marriage, polygamy and non-legally binding religious marriage ceremonies.
  • The impact on women’s rights of the use of informal community arbitration systems, including faith-based tribunals. The extent to which legal aid reform risks leading to an increase in the use of such systems.
  • The impact of the Government’s current and proposed immigration and asylum policies on victims of violence against women and girls, particularly with regard to the obligations contained in Chapter VII of the Istanbul Convention and the recent CEDAW Concluding Observations.
  • The impact of wider Government policies, such as contracting-out services, localism, reform of legal aid and welfare reform, on its compliance with the obligations under the Istanbul Convention and CEDAW in relation to VAWG.
  • The adequacy of support services for victims of violence in line with the standards required by the Istanbul Convention and CEDAW, including the impact of competitive tendering on service provision.
  • The adequacy of the response of the police, prosecution and judiciary to VAWG.
  • The extent to which there is evidence of coercive abortions taking place in the UK on grounds of whether the child will be male or female; and the adequacy of the Government’s response to any such evidence.
  • The extent to which UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security is being effectively implemented in Northern Ireland.
  • The reasons underlying the relative lack of use of the right of individual petition to the CEDAW Committee from the UK.

The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by midday on Wednesday 5 March 2014.  Each submission should:

a) be no more than 3,000 words in length
b) be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
c) have numbered paragraphs
d) include a declaration of interests.

Submitters to this inquiry are requested to use the written evidence web portal, please clink the link here – submit written evidence online. However, a copy of the submission may be sent by e-mail to and marked "Violence against women and girls".
It is expected that public oral evidence sessions will be held from March onwards.


Submissions should reach the Committee by midday on Wednesday 5 March 2014 through the online portal. Any problems meeting this deadline or with the portal should be addressed to Megan Conway, Lords Clerk of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Lords, 1 Millbank, London SW1A 0PW (email: 

Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a copy of the published work should be included.

Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.

Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

All communications to the Committee about its inquiries should be addressed through the Clerks or the Chair of the Committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the Committee. 

Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.