The Women’s Equality Party’s work will not be complete until violence against women because of their gender has been ended. It is a stain on our society that women can be murdered, violated, assaulted or oppressed because of their gender. No woman is free until she is safe: by diminishing women’s freedom to participate in their societies, violence against women and girls acts as one of the most pervasive barriers to gender equality.
To end this violence we have to recognise what it is: structural violence, overwhelmingly carried out by men. It is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. WE recognise that men and boys are also affected by violence and abuse. The protective framework suggested in these policies should also apply to men, children and older people who experience domestic violence and sexual abuse.
WE consider any denial of reproductive rights to women to be an act of violence and will always oppose any attempt to limit access to contraception, termination or medical support during pregnancy.
WE stand for:
Sanctuary for those fleeing abuse
Fleeing an abusive partner can be the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence and her family. WE believe in the absolute right to a place of sanctuary for women, children and other victims of domestic abuse. While current legislation helps in some instances, the most effective way to save lives on a large scale is to improve police practice and protect the vital services that support women exiting abusive relationships. WE recognise it is essential to fund independent specialist women’s support services to help women rebuild their lives, particularly while they might choose not to use the criminal justice system.
Prosecuting violence against women and girls
Prosecution rates for sexual violence remain shamefully low. WE will work tirelessly to change the culture of disbelief that pervades our criminal justice system and ensure services are available that encourage and enable victims to come forward, and allow evidence to be collected.
The importance of specialist support
Women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, with disabilities, insecure immigration status, in poverty or suffering from addiction, often face deeper and different forms of violence, so our approach must be as complex as the problem. Many women do not want to use the criminal justice system to take action against their families; WE will ensure support services are available for all who need protection, not just those ready to report problems to the police.
To end violence against women and girls, the whole of society needs to change: all women need to be able to walk down the street in peace. Our country has a gendered culture where men are seen as entitled to dominate, a media which portrays women as sex objects and minimises the significance of rape and domestic abuse: this creates an environment in which sexual violence is tolerated, condoned and enabled. Our policies to tackle misrepresentation in the media, and to teach comprehensive sex and relationships education in our schools, will help change this.
An end to trafficking and sexual exploitation
Violence against women and girls is a global problem and calls for international co-operation as well as local solutions – in particular on defeating the cross-border crime of sex trafficking. The UK should adopt and implement all international treaties focused on eliminating violence against women and girls, including the Istanbul Convention, and be a leading force internationally to persuade other countries do the same.
Traffickers and pimps operate and make a profit from exploiting women because there is demand for the sexual services their victims provide. Without that demand, there would be no reason to abuse women in this way.
WE will make the case for a managed process to end demand for the sex trade in the UK, by legislation that first establishes and funds necessary support and exiting services and then moves on to criminalise the purchase of sex after one to two years to remove the demand.
However, WE also recognise that this issue divides individuals, organisations and political parties across the UK. There needs to be a national debate that raises awareness of the realities of the sex trade, so that anyone buying sex understands the likelihood that women who sell sex may well have been trafficked, forced or abused, and understands how the expectation that women and girls can be bought and sold feeds into wider misogyny. The status quo cannot prevail.