Women in the UK can no longer afford to pay the price of abuse. Current funding for violence against women services is unsustainable and short-sighted, and this is costing lives. Vital services are closing and nearly a quarter the total referrals made to women's refuges are declined due to the lack of available bedspace.
We are calling on Theresa May to commit to supporting specialist services to tackle violence against women and girls.
We are calling for sufficient, sustainable funding and for greater accountability. The government must ensure money is spent where it’s needed so that support is provided by specialist services.
Polly Neate, CEO Women’s Aid, says: "Having worked with Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary, we know she is committed to ending violence against women. We urge her to seize this opportunity to make a step change in both the protection of women and the prevention of domestic abuse."
We need the government to rethink commissioning models to provide adequate support to specialist services that are for and led by women, including BME women and disabled women. This calls for a holistic, inclusive funding approach that actively supports smaller organisations with specialist expertise, and also enables agencies such as Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis to provide services to all women, including those with uncertain immigration status and adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
A 2014 survey by Girlguiding UK found 59% of young women aged 13-21 had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.
Research published in June by the NSPCC showed that the majority of boys who viewed online pornography believed it provided a realistic depiction of sex.
Figures released this February by the Office for National Statistics revealed one in three rape victims is under 16, and that the majority of rape victims (male or female) are aged between 15-19. They also revealed that young people are more likely to be in controlling relationships, or to think controlling behaviour is acceptable.
We are failing to protect our children and young people. It is vital that we teach young people about consent and respect.
We call for a commitment to making SRE compulsory and forming a whole school approach to ending all forms of violence against women and girls, including by addressing inequality between men and women and gender stereotypes.
SRE should be mandatory for all state-funded primary and secondary schools, and be taught by specialist teachers and providers.
Most of the women currently in detention have experienced sexual violence or torture in their countries of origin. As survivors of human rights abuses, these women find indefinite detention extremely traumatic.
The Government locks up around 100 pregnant women each year in Yarl’s Wood. Very few of these women leave Yarl’s Wood to be deported - only 9 of the 99 pregnant women detained in 2014 were deported, the rest re-entered the UK community, their detention having served no purpose.
We are therefore calling for an end of the detention of pregnant women and survivors of sexual violence, torture and trafficking and an independent inquiry into conditions at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.
Around 2000 women who have sought asylum are detained every year in Yarl’s Wood. This detention is indefinite, it can be for weeks, months, even a year. The asylum process could function just as efficiently - and more cheaply - without the use of detention.
We therefore call for an end to the detention of people who seek asylum.
We further call for an investigation into conditions at Yarl's Wood and for it to be shut it down.
Natasha Walter, director of Women for Refugee Women, says: "We welcome moves by the Women’s Equality Party to call for better protection for women who have sought asylum in the UK. Detention is traumatic for women who have fled persecution and we hope that the Government, under Theresa May's leadership, will now begin to move away from the use of indefinite detention for those seeking asylum, particularly for pregnant women and women who have fled torture, trafficking and sexual violence.”
May’s government has the potential to transform our economy by investing in childcare. Recent research by the Joseph Rowntree foundation clearly shows that families are struggling to afford childcare, which is directly affecting living standards across the UK.
The current Government has committed to expanding free childcare from 2017 for three-and four-year-olds. But this still leaves a long gap where there is no state provision for younger children, and this is forcing many women out of work and into poverty.
We are calling on May to invest in affordable childcare to boost our economy and revolutionise family life across the UK.
We are urging the government to adopt our policy of providing free, government-funded childcare for all children from the end of parental leave at 9 months until school age. The first 15 hours a week – where the educational benefits of childcare for children are clearest – should be free, with the rest payable at £1 an hour by parents, as recommended by the Resolution Foundation’s Commission on Living Standards.
Our new prime minister has the opportunity to lead the way on violence against women and girls - both in the UK and on the global stage.
The Istanbul Convention sets minimum standards for governments to meet when tackling violence against women. When a government ratifies the Convention, they are legally bound to follow it. By ratifying the Convention the UK will have to take all necessary steps it sets out to prevent violence, protect women experiencing violence and prosecute perpetrators. The UK Government will also have to ensure that there is sufficient monitoring of violence against women.
Ratifying the Istanbul Convention represents a lasting national commitment to tackling violence against women and an increase women’s safety in the UK. We want to see the government publish a timeline for the UK to ratify the convention. Ratification of the Istanbul Convention will mean that women and girls in the UK will be guaranteed the right to live lives free from violence and the fear of violence.
Rebecca Bunce of the IC Change campaign, which has worked alongside major women’s organisations since November 2014 to speed the UK Government’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, says: “We have been encouraged that during Theresa May’s time at the Home Office we saw significant changes to our laws to ensure we comply with the Istanbul Convention on Violence Against Women, including laws on psychological violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). Now we need to finish this work. We need a clear timetable for completion.”
It should be simple: half the population are women, so half of our legislators should be women, too. WE recognise that across the world, proportional voting systems tend to be better at electing women, and that an appointed House of Lords is neither equitable or democratic. But WE also know electoral reform may never happen – and everyone is losing out in the meantime on the progress a more diverse Parliament could achieve.
Today, 66 per cent of Theresa May's Government are men. Eighty per cent of Conservative MPs are men.
It is time to put Parliament into “special measures”. Women make up 29% of total MPs and 24% of Peers in the House of Lords. To correct this women should make up at least 66% of new MPs and 75% of new Peers for the next two elections. Political parties must:
Ensure 66% of candidates replacing retiring MPs and 66% of other candidates are women; different parties may choose different methods of achieving this but WE support the use of all women-shortlists.
Grant 75% of new peerages to women.
Based on current retirement and appointment rates, and current rates of improvement in the representation of women in parliament, this will achieve a 50:50 Parliament in 2025.