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CEHR and EVAW call for action on crisis of violence against women

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights and the coalition, End Violence Against Women (EVAW), are calling on the government and local authorities to provide more support for the 3 million women in the UK who experience violence every year. In addition, there are also untold numbers who have experienced abuse in the past and urgently need support.

The Commission and EVAW have published a report called Map of Gaps. It shows, in a series of facts, figures and maps, the huge gaps in service provision for women who need to access these vital support services. The report highlights a 'postcode lottery,' with some areas in the UK being reasonably well served, and others having no services at all. This leaves thousands of women without such services as rape crisis centres and refuges for victims of domestic violence.

Five areas are particularly underserved: The East of England; London; Northern Ireland; the North West; and the South East. In three cases these are regions with the largest percentages of population; in two there are smaller populations but extensive rural areas.

Very few areas can claim to have sufficient service provision to meet the needs of their female population who have recently suffered violence. The nine areas with the most extensive provision are: Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow, Hammersmith & Fulham, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

There is a legal aspect to the lack of service provision. Like all public bodies in Britain, local authorities and government departments are legally obliged under the Gender Equality Duty to promote equality between women and men. In failing to provide adequate services for women who have experienced violence, they may be acting unlawfully. The Commission considers this issue to be a key test against which it will judge British government departments and local authorities in assessing how they meet their legal obligations. Failure to comply with the legislation on gender equality may result in legal action being undertaken by the Commission.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, says:
'There is a crisis of violence against women which as a society we need to address.'
'The figures speak for themselves: one in ten women will be a victim of violence in the UK this year. Every single one of us knows a woman, be this a sister, a neighbour, a friend, who has first-hand experience of this violence.'

'These women need a safe environment, somewhere they can go and feel protected, someone to talk to and a place to rebuild their lives. At the moment, though, they face the terrifying prospect that they are unlikely to be able to access help in their darkest hour.'

Liz Kelly, Chair of End Violence Against Women, says:
'It is time to plug the gaps – it is simply too costly to continue with the current situation. Women deserve access to quality support services. We are calling for the Government and local authorities to provide more funding to stem the tide of closures. They also need to secure the future of services – some of which have been supporting women for over three decades.'

Support services for women who have experienced violence are essential for their access to safety, justice and the ability to  move on. At present a third of local authorities across the UK have no specialised support service. Most women in the UK have no access to a rape crisis centre and fewer than one quarter of local authorities have any sexual violence service at all. In recent years, services across the UK have been closing at an alarming rate.

In Scotland, where the government is developing a strategic approach to addressing violence against women, the situation is more positive. There is a commitment to funding for specialised services. This means that services are distributed more equally and there has been an expansion in rape crisis centre provision.

Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary said,

'Today's report is a wake-up call to anyone who thinks that such barbarism is a thing of the past in Britain. We hear countless stories from women whose workplace is a safe-haven away from violence at home. This abuse is compounded by a 'postcode lottery' of access to support for victims of violence.

We must tackle the root causes of violence against women and ensure that every woman affected by violence has access to good-quality support, which offers the hope of getting their lives back on track.'

ENDS

Posted by, Asif Yusuf

 

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