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Renewed call for Istanbul Convention for UK

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petition, icchange, David Cameron, Women's Aids, violence against women, Istanbul ConventionTo prevent violence against women; protect women who are experiencing violence and prosecute perpetrators of violence.

On 8 June 2012 the UK government signed the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, called the Istanbul Convention, and in doing so promised to get serious about ending violence against women.

Or so it seemed.

Promised a law that would dramatically change the lives of all women in the UK.

A law to prevent violence against women; protect women who are experiencing violence and prosecute perpetrators of violence.

Signing was seen to be the UK saying it had the intention of complying in the future.

What signing didn’t mean was that the Convention had at that point any legal status in the UK. It has to be ratified. And by ratifying it the UK government would be legally bound to comply with the Convention.

But despite the signing, and despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s previous assurances to the contrary, he confirmed in March 2015 that the coalition government would not be ratifying the Convention in Parliament before the general election on 7 May.

Cameron was responding to a letter from Women’s Aid, supported by over 35 organisations, calling for the UK government to now ratify the Istanbul Convention.

But Women’s Aid chief executive Polly Neate received a reply from him on 18 March confirming that the coalition government would not ratify the Istanbul Convention before the 7 May 2015 elections.

Responding in turn to the Prime Minister, Women’s Aid said that although they recognised the progress and commitment the UK government has made in tackling and preventing domestic violence, they were very disappointed that, despite a commitment in January 2014 from the Prime Minister, his government has not prioritised the legislative changes needed to ratify the Convention in Parliament.

Since signing the Istanbul Convention, the UK government has made gradual changes to UK law to comply with the Istanbul Convention, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and currently they are working on Coercive Control – or psychological abuse.

But these efforts to prevent violence against women and girls are inadequate: services providing survivors with protection and support are in crisis, and our prosecution system is failing survivors.

And until the government has ratified the Istanbul Convention, it doesn’t have to tackle these problems because it is currently under no legal obligation to meet all of its requirements. It can just pick and choose which parts of the Convention it wants to focus on.

Speaking in March, Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “By failing to uphold its commitment and deciding to pass the baton on to the next government, the current Government has missed an opportunity to protect the human rights of women in the UK.”

A campaign called #ICChange is now calling on the next UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and girls as a matter of urgency.

ICchange is calling on all Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) to pledge to be champions for the Istanbul Convention (IC) on Violence against Women and Domestic Violence if they are elected.

Being an ICchampion means committing to do all they can, if elected, to ensure that the UK government ratifies the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible – so that women and girls in the UK can live free from the threat of violence.

Please e-mail or tweet your local candidates with the ICchampion pledge and ask them to commit to ending violence against women.

You can send them this ICchampion briefing to fill them on the campaign and why it’s important.

The more of us that do it, the more likely they will be to pledge. And the more who pledge, the more likely the IC will become law. Let the campaign know how it goes via Twitter or by sending a message.

You can find your Conservative Party Prospective Candidates here; your Labour Party Prospective Candidates here; your Liberal Democrat Prospective Candidates here; your Green Party Prospective Candidates here; your SNP Prospective Candidates here and your UKIP Prospective Candidates here.

To find out which constituency you live in, click here.

Rape Crisis national spokeswoman Katie Russell said: “The government itself estimates that, in England and Wales alone, 85,000 women per year – equivalent to 233 per day – are raped and well over 400,000 are sexually assaulted; one in five women in England and Wales has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

“And these figures do not include the vast but harder to quantify numbers of younger women and girls who are subjected to sexual violence each year, month, week and day across the UK.

“In recent years, high profile cases in Rochdale, Oxfordshire, Rotherham and elsewhere have highlighted the sexual exploitation and abuse of thousands of girls,” she continued.

“At the same time, through our frontline work at Rape Crisis we know that still more girls are raped and sexually abused within their own homes, and in other settings where they should feel safe, by adult men who often responsible for their care, who they have trusted and even loved.

“Yet the majority of these women and girl survivors of sexual violence, whether recent or some time in the past, do not have access to a local specialist Rape Crisis service.

“In light of all of this,” she said, “it is a matter of urgency that the British Government, whoever it comprises, signals its commitment to tackling violence against women and girls in all its forms by ratifying the Istanbul Convention (IC) at its earliest opportunity after the General Election on 7th May.

“The minimum standards for action in relation to the prevention, protection, prosecution, and provision of specialist services set out in the IC offer a starting point for action and change that has never been more clearly or more desperately needed.

“For these reasons, Rape Crisis England & Wales is pleased and proud to be a supporter of the #ICchange campaign.”

And as Polly Neate said in March: “We urge the next Government to make ratifying the Istanbul Convention an urgent priority and show leadership in addressing domestic violence.”

You can follow @ICChange on Twitter; Tweet with the hashtag #ICChange

To visit the #ICChange website click here and to find the online petition to sign and share click here.

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