Violence against women and girls remains a huge societal problem, at home as well as abroad.
These crimes are often committed behind closed doors and in secret making it even harder for us to identify it and stamp it out.
Because much of it is so hidden our duty as politicians is to give women the tools and support they need to come forward and seek justice. We are getting better at this, last year the number of prosecutions relating to violence against women and girls in England and Wales reached a record levels, something I choose to see as a positive demonstrating more women coming forward.
At the same time social media is being used to call out sexism and violence – we all remember #WhyIStayed and the equally powerful #WhyILeft alongside the longlasting #EverydaySexism.
But, this is not enough.
For a start we must do more to prevent violence against women and girls happening in the first place, and this must begin at school. The Government’s refusal to introduce compulsory sex and healthy relationship education is a disaster. In a world where information, and mis-information, is at a child’s fingertips, it is vital that children build resilience to allow them to lead healthy, happy lives.
We also must give women who have gathered the strength to leave abusive partners hope. Hope that their lives, and those of their children, will get better. Hope, that they will now be safe and cared for. Shelters do fantastic work, offering women refuge, a chance to catch their breaths and get back on their feet, but with ever diminishing Government support access to these vital services are disappearing.
On just one day, 92 women and 75 children were turned away from refuge. For nearly half of the women, it’s because there was simply not enough space. Take that fact and put it alongside the fact that an average of two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales and a very dark picture emerges.
The then-Home Secretary and now Prime Minister’s ‘Ending violence against women and girls strategy’ launched to coincide with International Women’s Day this year is a good start but offers little comfort to those suffering now. These vital services need long-term funding to help keep their doors open.
We should be cheered by women’s voices breaking through and being heard but these voices must be amplified and supported by Government.
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