Autumn Conference Motion - Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

A couple of weeks ago we organised a working group to help write and edit a submission for Autumn Conference 2021. Over the course of two meetings and conversation in a closed group, the final draft was completed. Having now been submitted, we're pleased to show you the finished product below. A big thank you to all those who contributed and worked hard on it.

Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

Conference notes:

A. Sexual violence, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse remain endemic in our society:
    a. In 2019/20, 4.9 million women were victims of sexual assault in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)
A third of 16-18-year-old girls report experiencing unwanted sexual touching at school, according to End Violence Against Women

B. The pandemic has made the situation worse:
    a. The ONS report into Domestic abuse during the pandemic in November 2020 found increased demand for victim services and indicators that severity of abuse has increased
    b. Plan International UK found that since lockdown began, 1 in 5 girls aged 14-21 experienced public sexual harassment
    c. By 2030, 2 million more girls are now at risk of undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) due to the pandemic according to Plan International

C. The justice system is failing many victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence:
    a. Out of 139,000 rapes estimated by the ONS in the year ending March 2020, only 58,845 were reported to police. Of those, just 2.4% ended in convictions
    b. Three in four domestic abuse cases in England and Wales end without charge, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services

D. Those from minority backgrounds experience domestic abuse disproportionately:
    a. ONS figures for 2019 show that disabled women were more than twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled women
    b. LGBT+ people are significantly more likely to experience domestic abuse, with 13% of bisexual women facing intimate partner abuse in 2019/20,                    according to Stonewall
    c. In 2019, 60 per cent of UK police forces admitted referring victims of crime to the Home Office for immigration purposes, harming migrant women

E. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021, whilst very welcome, still contains policy gaps, including failure to provide equal protection for migrant women

F. The funding for domestic abuse services in the 2021 Budget falls short of the figure that Women’s Aid says is needed by over £200 million per year

G. The UK has failed to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a treaty creating a global framework for protecting women from violence

Conference believes:

I. Everyone, regardless of identity, has the right to live a life free from fear and violence
II. The Conservative Government is failing to properly tackle continuing violence against women and girls in our society
III. Investing in raising awareness, education, and policies aimed at prevention is vital and prevents greater costs long-term
IV. An intersectional approach to violence against women and girls is imperative to provide high level care and support to the most vulnerable victims
V. Disclosures of abuse must be made easier and always taken seriously by authorities who offer a trauma-informed response
VI. Ending violence against women and girls must be a top priority for all levels of government

Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitments to:

i. Improve and reform the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum, including age appropriate education on consent from primary school
ii. Expand the number of refuge and rape crisis centres, including specialist provision
iii. Give Local Authorities the duty and funding to provide appropriate accommodation and support for survivors of abuse
iv. Recognise misogyny as a hate crime

Conference calls on the Government to:

1. Increase efforts to prevent and detect violence against women and girls by:
    a. Funding an NHS-style public awareness campaign, including on long-lasting trauma impacts
    b. Consulting education leaders and the specialist violence against women and girls sector, to take immediate action on sexual harassment in schools
    c. Implementing guidance to include awareness of public sexual harassment and its consequences in the national curriculum
    d. Upskilling all school staff via training to ensure confidence in correctly and sensitively handling disclosures of a sexual or abusive nature
    e. Introducing a duty on public authorities to ensure all frontline staff are trained to detect and respond appropriately to domestic abuse
    f. Improving cross-government coordination of policies and services for separating families across England and Wales
    g. Establishing a plan to tackle the social recovery of vulnerable and at-risk women and girls following the pandemic

2. Improve outcomes for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse by:
    a. Ensuring migrant women have equal access to protection from abuse
    b. Introducing training and guidance for organisations on making their services more trans inclusive
    c. Offering a long-term funding model for specialist services, including specialist BAME and LGBT+ services, so they can plan strategically and fully focus on providing support
    d. Introducing mandatory training for police and the Crown Prosecution Service in understanding the impact of trauma on victims
    e. Improving access to independent legal support for victims, including those with no recourse to public funds

Strengthen the justice system to properly deal with sexual violence and domestic abuse by:
    a. Urgently increasing funding to reduce Criminal and Family court backlogs
    b. Extending protections of 16 and 17-year-olds by expanding the definition of ‘position of trust’, to include all adults who work/volunteer with under-18s
    c. Legislating to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence
    d. Legislating to make the promotion of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) a hate crime

Establish the UK as a leader in domestic and global efforts to end violence against women and girls by:
    a. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible
    b. Setting up an independent commission on ‘Ending Violence Against Women and Girls’ for ongoing, sustainable accountability and progress in domestic and global efforts

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