Kay Richmond examines Wales’ record on tackling violence against half the population
The Welsh Government proposed legislation to combat violence against women is ahead of other UK administrations (here).
Is this due to the relatively large representation of women in the National Assembly? In the 2007 elections it was 47 per cent, but fell back to 42 per cent in 2011. Meanwhile in the 2010 Westminster election the proportion was 18 per cent, and 50 per cent in the European Parliament election in 2009.
But there is no cause for complacency. Local Government elections generally return around 25 per cent female representatives while the number of women in private sector management positions is universally low.
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March each year, began in 1911 and has continued annually since then. The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March during International Women’s Year 1975. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.
The Welsh Government funds organisations to celebrate International Women’s Day. Its grants are administered by the Women’s Equality Network Wales. This year the theme is Visible Women: Empowering girls and women in Wales. Organisations not funded through this scheme will be joining in activities. Many events are advertised here
UN Women UK is the national committee which advocates for and supports UN Women. It does this, in part, through organizing the Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York each year. This year it will be on 4 – 15 March and is on the subject of the ‘Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls’. Representatives from UN Women UK and Women’s Equality Network Wales will be attending and reports will be available on the web sites.
Each year, three million women in Britain experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or other violence, However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Map of Gaps study shows that women who need vital support services face a postcode lottery. One in four local authority areas provide no specialised support services in their area for women who experience violence. This means a woman’s access to crucial support is vastly influenced by where she lives and women living in some areas continue to suffer violence without any specialised support at all.
Wales did not do well in the Map of Gaps report in 2007. However, by the second report in 2009 both Wales and Scotland had at least one specialist service for women services in each local authority. By comparison in England 30 per cent of authorities had none. Services across Wales were reported as follows:
|Services for Black, Minority, Ethnic Women
|Domestic Violence Services
|Prostitution, Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Services
|Rape Crisis Centres
|Sexual Assault Referral Centres
|Specialist Domestic Violence Courts
|Sexual Violence Services
The Welsh Government’s forthcoming Violence Against Women (Wales) Bill should adopt the recommendations of the Wales Violence Against Women Action Group. This has agreed six key priority outcomes:
- Reduction in the prevalence of all forms of violence against women, and support for women who experience such violence.
- Guaranteed access to adequate and sufficient services for women in Wales.
- Compulsory initiatives in schools and other educational settings to prevent violence before it starts, and for supporting pupils affected by such violence.
- Appropriate and timely interventions, referrals and signposting occur as a result of improved health responses to violence against women
- Employers know how to help female employees affected.
- All women affected have equal access to specialist support services, regardless of their location.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is often described as the Bill of Rights for women. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979 and consists of a preamble and 30 articles to which States are invited to commit themselves. Itdefines discrimination against women as:
“… any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
The UK signed this convention on 22 July 1981 and ratified it ion 7 April 1986 but with some reservations for both the UK and Dependent Territories – Countries are examined on its implementation “at least every four years” – the last for the UK was in 2008 and so should have been examined in 2012. However, this has been postponed, possibly until 2014. Women’s Equality Network Wales made a submission to the Government Equalities Office in June 2012. It would be good to see the Welsh Government adopting this convention in the same way that they have accepted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Now is the time to lobby for this, given the forthcoming Violence Against Women (Wales) Bill.