Home Secretary Priti Patel has published the government’s new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls to ensure they are safe at home, online and on the streets
The strategy sets out to improve the criminal justice response to rape, toughen sentences and protection for victims through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as well as the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers to make streets safer.
A new online tool ‘StreetSafe’ will also provide women and girls with a way to anonymously and quickly pinpoint areas where they have felt unsafe and say why.
Immediate steps will be taken to reinforce physical safety in public spaces and include:
- A new national policing lead on violence against women and girls who will report into the Home Secretary-chaired National Policing Board.
- A review of options to limit use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment in higher education.
- A £5 Million ‘Safety of Women at Night’ Fund will focus on the prevention of violence against women and girls in public spaces at night, including in the night-time economy.
- Criminalising virginity testing.
- Appointing 2 new Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champions, to tackle the problems faced by female passengers on public transport.
- An additional £1.5 million per annum in vital specialist support services for those from minority groups and to increase our funding for helplines.
- The Ministry of Justice will commission a 24/7 rape and sexual assault helpline
- The Department for Education will develop additional support to help teachers deliver the relationships, sex and health education curriculum.
- The Department for Transport has today announced that Urban Transport Group Chair and Interim West Midlands Combine Authority CEO Laura Shoaf and Transport for West Midlands Interim Managing Director Anne Shaw will be VAWG Transport Champions, working closely with campaign groups, industry and government to identify areas for improvement across the UK’s transport network.
- The Department for Education will work with the Office for Students to tackle sexual harassment and abuse in higher education (including universities) and will review options to limit use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment in higher education.
- The Department for Transport will tomorrow launch its call for evidence on street design tomorrow, to seek views on how the government’s manual for streets guidance can be updated to help ensure streets are planned with women’s safety at the forefront of any considerations.
- The Home Office will invest in understanding ‘what works’ to prevent violence against women and girls. The department will provide £1.5 million in funding for intervention programmes and £1.5 million for evidence building. This will result in high quality, evidence-informed prevention projects, for example which aim to educate and inform children and young people about violence against women and girls, healthy relationships and the consequences of abuse.
- The Home Office will appoint an independent reviewer to undertake a review of the management of registered sex offenders by the police and will provide new investment for the National Crime Agency to develop innovative data capability to identify new methods of identifying serial sex offenders.
- The Home Office will launch a multi-million communications campaign with a focus on targeting perpetrators and harmful misogynistic attitudes, educating young people about healthy relationships and ensuring victims can access support.
Independent Advisor for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls, Nimco Ali said:
“Crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls, many of which are disguised under the labels of tradition and cultural practise, such as FGM and virginity testing, have no place in our society.
“To address these crimes and tackle violence against women and girls across the board, government and society must look at the whole system.
“The strategy aims to do just that, taking action through legislation and education, and I hope will be the foundation on which we can build a safer world for women and girls.”
Natasha Rattu, Executive Director of Karma Nirvana said:
“Karma Nirvana are pleased to see the inclusion of tackling virginity testing in the government’s violence against women and girls strategy. We recognise virginity testing to be a form of violence against women and girls, which is in itself, both cause and consequence of gender inequality. This is the first VAWG strategy to acknowledge this harmful practice and we look forward to working closely with the government in this important progressive step.”
Sophie Mortimer, Revenge Porn Helpline Manager, SWGfL said:
“We welcome the new violence against women and girls strategy and the abuse it addresses. The abuse that women and girls face online is significant. Since it opened in 2015, women account for nearly three quarters of victims reaching out to our Revenge Porn Helpline; a vital service that has now managed over 11,000 cases and removed over 200,000 intimate images. Every day we see the distress and impact that this form of abuse has as 4% of those whom we support express suicidal ideation. The Covid-19 pandemic has merely magnified this issue as we’ve received more than a doubling of cases; a rate that shows no sign of slowing.”
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