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Welsh schools to help stop violence against women

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right to know, education, girls' safety, Welsh Assembly, violence against women billThe Welsh Assembly has passed a new Violence Against Women bill.

This is a landmark act but it almost failed at the last moment when women’s rights campaigners threatened to block the bill unless it included provisions to integrate schools into the country-wide scheme to prevent gender-based violence.

They were calling for each school to have a person with the training responsible for dealing with issues of violence and abuse in the home, and for healthy relationships to be part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) classes.

The Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats had all been backing calls from the Wales Violence Against Women action group for more to be done to ensure that schools tackle the issues covered in the bill.

And as Labour does not have an overall majority in the Welsh Assembly, the Welsh government faced losing the entire bill if all the opposition AMs voted against it.

Last minute concessions saved the bill.

The education system has the potential to raise awareness of women’s human rights and provide support systems to young people at risk of harm.

But many schools are failing to support their pupils: and, as Joanne Payton wrote in her recent blog for IKWRO, ‘we still hear of teachers who shrug, and tell girls ‘it’s their culture’ to be forced into marriage and raped’.

In the Welsh Migration Partnership’s Uncharted Territory report, which Payton co-authored, investigating the domestic violence affecting asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant women Wales, among the recommendations was one saying that:

‘Healthy Relationships’ education should sensitively address a variety of patterns of violence within the family, in all primary and secondary schools in Wales in order that girls at risk of forced marriage, ‘honour’- based violence, FGM and other forms of abuse can have confidence that their concerns are understood and that there is support available to them.

These topics should be broached early in the programme, given that these issues may affect girls at young ages.

It is important to establish, Payton continued, that in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, young people who may be suffering from various different kinds of violence still have the RightToKnow, and the ability to seek help, regardless of their identity and background.

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