Motion F26 ‘Tackling Violence Against Women’, 19 September 2011
We are glad that the Liberal Democrats are highlighting some important issues that Women Against Rape has been working on for a number of years. These issues are: the rights of rape survivors seeking asylum; an end to the criminalisation of children in prostitution; an end to the prosecution of rape victims accused of making a false allegation; and an end to the imprisonment of women for non-violent offences.
Specifically, we urge Conference to support Section 2 of Motion F26: ‘Protecting victims’.
[See Lib Dem Motion F26 on p30 of the Conference Agenda]
Section 2 builds on what has already been won by the campaigning we and others have done in these areas.
a) Criminalisation deters children involved in prostitution from getting support and escaping violence and exploitation.
Together with the English Collective of Prostitutes, we have worked with many sex workers of all ages who have faced discrimination and even prosecution when reporting violence.
b) WAR works with asylum seekers who have been raped.
Despite the torture they have suffered, the agony of having witnessed loved ones being killed in front of them and of being separated from children who had to be left behind for safety, rape survivors are frequently held in detention or made destitute. Our experience, and that of Black Women’s Rape Action Project with whom we work closely on this, is that the Detained Fast Track denies victims time to speak about rape, and that the lack of good-quality legal representation often means that their experiences are not properly documented or considered.
c) Protecting survivors who report rape from being wrongly accused of making a false allegation and imprisoned for it.
The prosecution of rape survivors on suspicion of ‘making a false allegation’ is a central campaign of WAR’s which has had a significant impact on getting policy reviewed. Guidance to prosecutors on domestic violence retractions is already in place, but more is needed. We are working with several women wrongly imprisoned after reporting rape. The Guidance that has been issued so far relates to women who retracted their allegation usually because of fear of retaliation or other pressure. But there are victims of such a miscarriage of justice who reported being attacked by an unidentified stranger and have never retracted despite police pressure to do so. We are particularly concerned by the number of women who have told us that they were pressured into retracting not by the attacker or by relatives but by police.
d) WAR endorses the Corston Recommendations.
Over half of women prisoners have suffered domestic violence* and over 60% are mothers**. Children whose mothers are imprisoned suffer untold and lasting harm.
We hope that Conference will also explicitly recognise that life-saving resources such as social security benefits are essential to enabling women to escape violent relationships and setting up a new home in safety. These include the Social Fund (which the Welfare Reform Bill is to abolish); a longer exemption from job-seeking to allow traumatised victims time for recovery; refuges; accessible and affordable housing; and legal aid. Without these, and the choice in birth registration, child contact and other involvement with violent ex-partners, victims of rape and domestic violence cannot rebuild their lives.
We urge you to oppose measures that are dangerous to women and children from being introduced as part of the Welfare Reform Bill now before Parliament.
For more information visit: www.womenagainstrape.net
Or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Over half the women in prison say they have suffered domestic violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse. (Prison Reform Trust paper Women in Prison 2010, figures from Social Exclusion Unit (2002) Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners, London: Social Exclusion Unit.
** 66% of female prisoners are mothers, and each year it is estimated that 17,700 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment (Bromley Briefings by the Prison Reform Trust).