Dear friends

The Home Office did a consultation to update its Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. It includes a public questionnaire, deadline 19 February.  WAR will respond to the consultation raising the following issues in the sections where people are asked for ‘other comments’. We urge you to write in too and send us a copy of your comments so we can mention them in what we do.

We will be raising:

- Why do a consultation when what is needed is for police and CPS to vigorously enforce the current laws against rape and domestic violence? Rape is practically decriminalised (the conviction rate for reported rape is down to 1%!) and at least two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners.

- Why do a consultation when the government is resisting amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill now going through Parliament? If they don’t listen to victims/survivors when they draft legislation, why should they consider anything we say to this consultation? Lords Briefing

- The Domestic Abuse Bill should: recognise that most victims are women and girls and most perpetrators are men; protect mothers and children in the family courts and stop forcing children into contact with violent fathers; provide resources for victims; end the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule which denies women with uncertain immigration status access to existing support.

- The consultation claims that domestic abuse costs £66 billion a year, and rape £4.8 billion. How is this money calculated and what protection or justice do we get for it? Our experience is that escape routes have been cut and compensation for rape is discriminatory and often denied.

- Poverty makes women and children vulnerable to violence. If the government is serious about violence against women and girls it would reverse the cuts which have impoverished us: 86% of cuts to benefits, wages and resources have targeted women; single mothers are 75% of those impoverished by the benefit cap; mothers are not included in emergency packages; 71% of those who asked to be furloughed were refused.

- While this consultation is happening, the government are pushing two dangerous bills. The Covert Human Intelligence Source (Criminal Conduct) Bill and the Overseas Operations Bill would enable rape, torture, and even murder by anyone the state gives a licence to, including corporations. The war crimes that Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning publicised would be legalised and extended to UK soil.

- Discrimination against those of us who are homeless, have disabilities, mental health issues or insecure immigration status, are sex workers or trans women, makes us more vulnerable to violence, and denies us protection and justice. We support the English Collective of Prostitutes objections to sex work being classed as rape in any policy or strategy – it implies that sex workers can’t tell the difference between rape and consenting sex!

Please consider including some of these issues in what you say. We look forward to getting a copy of your comments.

Yours against rape
Lisa Longstaff and Cristel Amiss