Women’s Equality Party responds to the government's draft domestic violence bill
The Women’s Equality Party commends measures contained in the draft domestic violence bill, but says without sustainable funding new legislation rings hollow. The government risks setting unrealistic expectations on a heavily overburdened system of public services and specialist support, which will be felt by those working on the front line. Separating domestic abuse from other forms of violence against women and girls is a step backwards.
The Home Office published the long-awaited draft domestic abuse bill today, which defines domestic abuse in law and creates powers for a new commissioner of domestic abuse to map the local and national response and make recommendations to the government.
Alexia Pepper de Caires, Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party, said:
“There are positive steps in this bill as the result of unwavering hard work, campaigning and pressure on lawmakers by women’s services and charities. Ending the abuse of power in family courts where domestic violence survivors and victims may be cross-examined by their alleged perpetrators abuse is a legal reform long overdue.
“The Women’s Equality Party welcomes the proposed recognition in law that acts of violence in intimate and family relationships are often incidences within a wider pattern of dominating and controlling behaviour, intended to keep women and children scared and compliant.
“The expanded definition of economic abuse in place of financial abuse clarifies the far-reaching ways that perpetrators find to keep victims financially dependent on them, and reduce their means of escaping.
“However, without sustainable funding sources, legislation intended to increase prosecutions and deter perpetrators rings hollow. Investment is urgently needed for the services that save women’s lives, advocate for them navigating the legal and civil justice systems and gather the evidence needed to build a case against perpetrators. Funding is also needed for the police, courts and rehabilitation programmes.
“Specialist women’s services, particularly those supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic women, are on their knees or closing. Local authorities, who face disastrous financial pressure under austerity policy, too often use competitive tendering processes. These favour generic and increasingly gender neutral services, squeezing out the services women rely on to rebuild their lives.
“The government’s forthcoming spending review is its opportunity to put this right, by creating a sustainable funding plan, ring-fencing funding for specialist women’s services, and requiring commissioners to use a grant-funding model.”
Alexia went on to say,
“Frustratingly this bill separates domestic abuse from other forms of violence against women. The recognition that coercive control is domestic abuse should be held in the context of all violence against women. The different forms of violence are not inflicted in isolation, they are all forms of control placed over women and girls. They are all cause and consequence of women’s inequality.
“Powers created for the new commissioner need to go beyond domestic abuse; in 2019 the urgent call must be heard for national and local approaches to ending violence against women. We will not accept piecemeal sticking plasters.”
In response to the government’s drafting process, the women’s rights organisation Imkaan developed an Alternative Bill to Address Violence Against Women and Girls. WE support their demand for an Alternative Bill to the government's.
Notes to editors
The Home Office published its draft domestic violence bill on Monday 21st January.
The Women's Equality Party was founded in 2015 to push women's equality up the political agenda. Ending violence against women is one of its seven core objectives.