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Are the Government failing to address violence against women and girls?

Friday 29 January 2021

The newly formed House of Lords International Agreements Committee will quiz minister, Victoria Atkins MP, on continued delays to the UK ratifying the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and girls.

This remote evidence session will take place at 10am on Monday 1 February and can be followed on Parliament Live TV.

In the session, the Committee will seek clarity on the longstanding delays in ratifying the Istanbul Convention and what progress has been made in ensuring that domestic UK laws meet the positive obligations of the Convention.

One part of the process for meeting these obligations involves passing the Domestic Abuse Bill, which continues its passage in the House of Lords on Monday.

Lords’ members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights have also been invited to join the evidence session, which builds on their work around implementation and compliance, particularly regarding the protection of victims with insecure migration status.

Giving evidence will be:

  • Victoria Atkins MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Safeguarding, Home Office.

Questions the Committee are likely to ask:

  • The UK signed the Istanbul Convention in 2012, but still has not ratified it. How common is it for International Agreements to remain unratified for such a long time?
  • What has been the practical effect of the UK not ratifying the Istanbul Convention? Are there specific rights that women and girls in the UK have been denied?
  • What steps still have to be taken in order to meet the requirements of the Convention in domestic law? Will these be completed by the end of 2021?
  • Why has it taken so long to pass the legislation?
  • The Joint Committee on Human Rights raised questions around compliance with the provisions of the Convention that relate to migrant victims of domestic abuse in 2015. Why, in 2021, is the Government still unable to “identify the scale and scope of potential needs of migrant victims”?
  • What impact has non-ratification had on the UK’s ability to take a leadership role in combatting violence against women and girls internationally?
  • The Convention requires adequate provision of refuge spaces. However, we have heard about a lack of progress in this area. What are the reasons for this?
  • Many stakeholders have expressed significant concerns about the Government’s announcement on plans to run a dual approach, to violence against women and girls, on the one hand, and domestic abuse on the other. What is the justification for this move?

Lord Goldsmith QC, Chair of the International Agreements Committee, said:

“The UK signed the Istanbul Convention back in 2012, but has failed to ratify it. It is troubling that the Government has yet to bring fully into effect the UK’s international commitments on preventing and combating violence against women and girls. The new International Agreements Committee will consider at its first public evidence session whether to call on the Government to prioritise any necessary work, so that the UK can meet its international obligations and demonstrate strong leadership at a time when there are growing concerns about an increase in domestic abuse, here in the UK and worldwide.”

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