Liam McArthur highlights Swinson’s and Featherstone’s work and supports ambition action on violence against women

Last week the Scottish Parliament debated violence against women during the 16 days of action between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and International Human Rights day. Liam McArthur led for the Liberal Democrats. He noted that in the ninety minutes of the debate, 9 women would face violence at the hands of their partners.

It was a sensible, consensual debate which you can read here.  Liam’s speech in full is published below:

I, too, congratulate Michael Matheson on his promotion, which is reward for the constructive approach that he has taken in his ministerial duties thus far.

I welcome this timely debate, the pertinent amendment and Graeme Pearson’s powerful contribution. I also welcome the gender equality in the debate and the publication of the strategy, “Equally Safe”.

I add my thanks to the police and the various voluntary and third sector organisations for their contribution. There is no doubt that without the work that they do day and daily to help in very practical ways, Scotland would be a much lonelier, more dangerous place for women and girls who face violence. We must support our voluntary sector to continue to do the excellent work that they do, and I would be interested to understand the implications of the fact that, for example, funding in Orkney for work on violence against women is about half of what was requested. I do not really know what the implications of that are, but it strikes me that they are worth exploring.

The third sector is also due recognition for its enormous input into policy making in the area. Its direct experience of working with women and girls is invaluable, and its determination to effect change is to be commended. All members in the Parliament clearly share that determination, and that is reflected in the strategy and the measures from the programme for government to tackle domestic abuse and revenge pornography, which I welcome.

There are no quick fixes. Legislation can help—it can highlight an issue—but, as Christina McKelvie rightly observed, moving violence against women up the political agenda is not a remedy in itself. Sadly, gender-based violence is still too deep-rooted a problem, and it requires a major cultural shift.

I understand that, in the brief time that we have to debate the issue, at least nine women in Scotland will suffer violence at the hands of their partners. In 2012-13, there were more than 60,000 reported incidents of domestic abuse. The increase in reporting is welcome, but the scale of the problem is self-evident and we know that many incidents go unreported.

To achieve the vision, we need to bring communities with us. We need to instil mutual respect in each and every individual in Scotland. That starts in our homes and schools. The packs of material that are available from Zero Tolerance and other organisations for primary and secondary schools are an excellent resource, as those early years are vital.

As other members observed, we need to look more widely at the issue, which blights societies across the globe. It is only fair to acknowledge the work done by the UK Government—particularly my colleagues Lynne Featherstone and Jo Swinson—not only in the UK but further afield. That includes investing £25 million in a new violence against women and girls research and innovation fund to support new programmes to tackle the problem worldwide. It also includes campaigning for zero tolerance towards female genital mutilation, which Nanette Milne and others mentioned. The practice serves no religious, cultural or medical purpose and can be extremely harmful or even fatal.

Even as a novice to the debate, I am conscious that it is impossible to do justice to the complexity of the issues that we are considering so briefly. However, I welcome the fact that the debate is taking place and the extremely strong and united message that the Parliament is sending out.

I will repeat the comments by Ban Ki-moon that James Dornan quoted earlier:

“there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”

Yes, our vision and the strategy are ambitious, but aspiring to anything less is unacceptable.

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  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '14 - 11:42am

    @ Caron,
    If you missed it, may I recommend last night’s Panorama programme which is available on BBC iplayer.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 10th Dec '14 - 9:35pm

    For those interested in the Panorama exposé , it was for me, frankly a breath of fresh air, for it highlighted the level of, and the reality about abuse towards women, that is still all too common within society, and remains an embarrassingly abhorrence for us all that needs to be tackled appropriately.

    The programme touched on some of the excellent work that is being developed by people such as Dr Jane Monckton-Smith (University of Gloucester) who is working with the Association of Chief Police Officers, the College of Policing, and Gloucestershire Police specifically to significantly increase the level of service that the police provides to the all too many women victims of abuse.

    For further information contact Dr Jane Monckton-Smith via [email protected] for further information.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion

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