Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It is also the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which runs to December 10th, Human Rights Day. Two women each week are killed by a male partner here in the UK. One in four women in the UK (one in three internationally) experience abuse. Whilst the majority of victims are women, 700,000 men each year suffer domestic violence.
The Istanbul Convention, which the UK Government has signed but not ratified, was devised to tackle all forms of violence against women and domestic abuse worldwide. The full title, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, covers all forms of violence against women and within domestic situations (including men, women and children).
As it happens, I was present at a conference on Violence and Human Rights in Istanbul back in 2012, the year after Istanbul Convention was written. Hearing Turkish academics and lawyers talk about domestic violence, often from a personal point of view which has influenced their public advocacy, was enlightening and brought home to me the global nature of this issue.
The Istanbul Convention defines domestic violence as, “all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim.”
Domestic violence is about power and control. Gender inequality at all levels of work and society reinforce the underlying currents of domestic abuse.
There is currently a Private Members Bill going through Parliament which will ratify the Istanbul Convention. On December 16th the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill 2016-17 will have its Second Reading. We all must urge our MPs to support this bill.
In my role as 2015 Parliamentary Candidate, I took part in a Police Federation Hustings at the Houses of Parliament. I remember two particular points I made that day:
- the efficacy of police Body-Worn Cameras in providing evidence for domestic violence cases;
- the terrible effect domestic violence has on children.
62% of children living with domestic abuse are directly harmed by the perpetrator of the abuse, in addition to the harm caused by witnessing the abuse of others.
Those who are victims of abuse in childhood are much more likely to become abusers themselves. We must break this cycle.
IC Change is a UK movement working to have the Istanbul Convention ratified in the UK. Please support their work.
* Kirsten Johnson is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Oxford East and a member of the Federal International Relations Committee.