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Open letter protests rape clause


open letter, two-child tax credit limit, 'rape clause', objections, 25 signatories, women's rights organisations, Telegraph‘We strongly oppose the UK government’s two-child tax credit limit’.

Twenty-five women’s rights organisations co-signed an open letter recently, calling on the UK government to scrap the two-child tax credit limit, known as the ‘rape clause‘, saying it puts women who have experienced rape and domestic violence in an appalling position.

New legisation that came into force this year, means that a mother can claim for a third child if she gets Child Tax Credit for 2 or more children and a child born on or after 6 April 2017 is likely to have been conceived either as a result of a sexual act which you didn’t or couldn’t consent to or at a time when she was in an abusive relationship, under ongoing control or coercion by the other biological parent of the child.

She cannot claim this exception if she lives with the other biological parent of the child, although she can qualify for this exception regardless of whether or not there’s been a court case or conviction of a criminal offence related to the rape.

To claim she has to fill in a form that has to be filled out in the presence of and signed by an approved third-party professional such as a healthcare professional, for example, doctor, nurse, midwife or health visitor; a registered social worker or a specific organisation, such as specialist rape charities

The situation is further complicated in Northern Ireland, for if a third party knows or believes that a serious offence – such as rape – has been committed, by law that third party has a duty to inform the police of any information that is likely to secure, or to be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of someone for that offence.

The 1967 Abortion Act, which established legal abortion, has never applied in Northern Ireland. Guidelines issued in March 2016 by the Northern Ireland Executive state that access to abortion is only permitted if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Fatal foetal abnormalities, rape and incest are not circumstances in which abortions can be performed legally.

Women and girls needing abortions – if they have been raped, for example, have to travel to England, Wales or Scotland. But because women and girls from Northern Ireland are not entitled to free abortions on the NHS, they must fund the cost of the procedure from their own pocket on top of paying for travel and accommodation, which disproportionately affects the poorest.

The letter was published in The Telegraph on 21 September, International Day of Peace.

It read as follows:

Dear Editors,

We strongly oppose the UK Government’s two child tax credit limit, a dangerous policy that forces victims of domestic and sexual violence to disclose that their third or subsequent baby was conceived as a result of rape or coercive control, in order to avoid losing their child’s tax credits.

Many women will never disclose rape to anyone, for reasons including trauma, self-protection, shame, and fear for others – including their child.

To force them to do so is cruel.

In Northern Ireland, where the law requires that all rapes are reported to police, survivors are further forced to engage with the criminal justice system.

The demand for a woman to have left the perpetrator in order to claim tax credits reveals a complete lack of understanding of the coercive and controlling behaviour that underpins this crime and the life-threatening risks facing women and children who leave.

The ‘rape clause’ is set against a backdrop of wider changes to social security rules that restrict women’s access to security, safety and the resources they need to live free from violence and abuse.

On this year’s International Peace Day – the theme of which is ‘respect, safety and dignity for all – we call on the UK Government to uphold the rights and dignity of women and children survivors and reverse the two child tax credit limit immediately.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid Federation of England;
Jan Melia, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland;
Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive, Scottish Women’s Aid;
Eleri Butler, Chief Executive, Welsh Women’s Aid;
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director, Agenda Alliance;
Donna Covey, Director, AVA;
Guy Shennan, Chair, and Dr Ruth Allen, Chief Executive – British Association of Social Workers;
Ann Furedi, Chief Executive, BPAS;
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England;
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society;
Rachel Krys, Co-Director, End Violence Against Women and Girls Coalition;
Emma Ritch, Executive Director, Engender;
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, Fawcett Society;
Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive, Gingerbread;
Marai Larasi, Chief Executive, Imkaan;
Hareem Ghani, Shuwanna Aaron, Gwyneth Sweatman, National Union of Students Women’s Officers in the UK, Scotland and Wales;
Dianne Whitfield and Dawn Thomas – Co-Chairs, Rape Crisis England and Wales;
Estelle du Boulay, Chief Executive, Rights of Women;
Gill Walton, Chief Executive, Royal College of Midwives;
Diana Barran, Chief Executive, SaveLives;
Nicole Jacobs, Chief Executive, Standing Together;
Sharon Greene, National Women’s Officer, Unison;
Siobhan Endean, National Officer for Equalities, Unite the union;
Mark Castle, Chief Executive, Victim Support; and
Laura Payne, Programme Manager, 4in10 Programme.

If you would like to help by sending this on to your MP, please do.

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