Policy

Ending violence against women and girls in the UK

Issue

In the latest figures from 2012 to 2013 published by the ONS it is estimated that around 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse and over 330,000 women were sexually assaulted. Domestic and sexual violence is often hidden away behind closed doors, with the victim suffering in silence.

We are determined to support victims in rebuilding their lives, reporting these crimes, and to make sure perpetrators are brought to justice. We all need to do more to prevent violence against women and girls happening at all.

Actions

Our approach to ending violence against women and girls involves a number of actions, including:

  • allocating and protecting nearly £40 million of funding until 2015 for specialist local support services and national helplines

  • re-launching the highly successful This is Abuse campaign, including collaborations with Hollyoaks and MTV, and with a new focus on reaching young male perpetrators

  • completion of the domestic violence disclosure scheme (Clare’s Law) pilot and the national roll-out from March 2014. This allows the police to disclose information to the public about a partner’s previous violent offending and thereby empowering people to make an informed decision about the future of a relationship

  • evaluation of the domestic violence protection order pilot, and the national roll-out from March 2014, which prevents perpetrators of violence from returning to their home for up to 28 days, giving the victim time to consider their options

  • a review of the police response to domestic violence by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which reported in March 2014

  • setting out a programme of work through the National Group on Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People to prevent sexual abuse happening in the first place; to protect children online; to make sure the police can identify and deal with abuse; and ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system. We are ensuring that the work of this group links in effectively with the broader agenda on violence against women and girls

  • ensuring victims of sexual violence have access to specialist support, by part-funding 87 independent sexual violence advisers and pledging £1.2 million for 3 years from 2012 to improve services for young people suffering sexual violence in major urban areas

  • progressed legislation that criminalised forced marriage in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to ensure that this unacceptable practice can be robustly prosecuted

  • in February 2014, ministers signed a joint declaration on female genital mutilation to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to end this terrible form of abuse, which includes part-funding a new study into the prevalence of FGM in England and Wales. The new research will be the first update since a 2007 study revealed that over 20,000 girls in the UK could be at risk of FGM each year

  • maintaining one of the most robust sex offender management regimes in the world which has included introducing new legislation to reform the civil orders available, Funding the development and delivery of a training package on stalking to further assist frontline workers to identify cases of stalking, and support and advise victims appropriately

  • engaging closely with local commissioners, including issuing a violence against women and girls fact pack and holding a conference on commissioning for police and crime commissioners

Background

In 2010, Baroness Stern reviewed the handling of rape and sexual violence complaints by public authorities.

To mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women in 2010, the coalition government published its strategic vision, outlining our ambition to end violence against women and girls.

In March 2011 we published an action plan committing government to a wide range of actions to end violence against women and girls. We also published a full response to the Stern review.

This was followed by a progress review in November 2011 and an updated action plan in March 2012, containing 100 actions across areas like prevention, provision of services, partnership working, justice outcomes and reducing risk to victims.

In March 2013 we published a further refreshed version of our action plan. The new plan sets out significant progress since the last report was published a year ago. The updated plan looks at challenging the attitudes that foster violence against women and girls.

We published a further refreshed version of our action plan in March 2014, setting out cross-government progress on actions to reduce violence against women and girls since our last plan was published. Our new plan sets out our ambition to: protect victims through early intervention rolling out programmes such as Clare’s Law and domestic violence protection orders; support effective local approaches by giving local commissioners the information they need to tackle violence against women and girls; ensure that other programmes – such as tackling sexual violence against children and young people, gang related exploitation of girls and modern slavery support our approach to ending violence against girls and women.

Who we’ve consulted

In October 2011 we consulted on a domestic violence disclosure scheme. We sought views on whether the protection available to victims of domestic violence could be enhanced by establishing a national disclosure scheme, which would include recognised and consistent processes for the police to disclose information to potential victims.

In December 2011 we consulted on whether a specific criminal offence would help combat forced marriage and, if so, how it would be formulated. We also asked how to implement the criminalisation of breaches of the civil Forced Marriage Protection Orders.

Following the consultation, we announced plans to make it a criminal offence to force someone to marry.

In February 2012, we launched a consultation to ask for views on how we can protect victims of stalking more effectively. Read the summary of the responses to the consultation.

In September 2012 we announced that the definition of domestic violence would be widened following a public consultation supporting the change. Read about the domestic violence definition consultation.

Bills and legislation

The Female Genital Mutilation Act was introduced in 2003 and came into effect in March 2004. The act:

  • makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK
  • makes it illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country
  • makes it illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad
  • includes a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and, or, a fine

In November 2012 the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was updated by provisions made in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, creating 2 new offences for stalking. The new offences were made under sections 2A and 4A of the 1997 act and cover:

  • stalking
  • stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm and distress

The amendments also set out new police powers to enter and search premises (on provision of a warrant – section 2B).

The Anti- Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act was introduced in 2014. The Act:

  • criminalises forcing someone to marry against their will
  • criminalises the luring of a person to a territory of a state for the purpose of forcing them to enter into marriage
  • makes it an offence to use deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the UK for the intention of forcing that person to marry
  • criminalises the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order

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