Violence against women remains a pervasive challenge in the United Kingdom and a more comprehensive and targeted response is needed to address the scourge, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today after a two-week mission to the country.
Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo noted that the UK has made the issue of violence against women a priority and there have been “many positive developments,” including a 2010 strategy to address the problem.
“But a more comprehensive and targeted response to address acts of violence against women and girls is needed,” stated Ms. Manjoo, who has been charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
In a news release issued at the end of her 16-day mission to the UK, the expert pointed out that in the course of last year, 7 per cent of women in England and Wales reported having experienced any type of domestic abuse – equivalent to 1.2 million female victims. It is also estimated that 2.5 per cent of women reported having experienced any type of sexual assaults – equivalent to an estimated 400,000 female victims.
Other manifestations of violence which were reported throughout her visit included sexual harassment, gender-based bullying, forced and/or early marriages, female genital mutilation, gang-related violence, so called honour- related violence, and trafficking.
Women’s organizations in the UK informed the Special Rapporteur that black and minority ethnic and migrant women experience a disproportionate rate of domestic homicide, and that women of Asian origin are up to three times more likely to commit suicide than other women as a result of violence.
Ms. Manjoo noted that the current austerity measures are having a disproportionate impact, not only in the specific provision of violence against women services, but more generally, on other cross-cutting areas affecting women, such as poverty and unemployment, which are contributory factors to violence against women and girls.
“It is important to recognize that the reduction in the number and quality of specialized services for women does impact health and safety needs of women and children, and further restricts them when considering leaving an abusive home, thus putting them at a heightened risk of re-victimization,” she stressed.
Ms. Manjoo noted that, in order to address shortcomings in responses, the British authorities have piloted and completed the evaluation of a series of initiatives, including Domestic Violence Protection Orders, which enable the police and magistrates to exclude a perpetrator from the home for up to 28 days.
She also noted that, since March 2013, the non-statutory definition of domestic abuse in the UK, previously restricted to “adults,” includes victims aged 16 and 17, as well as the concepts of controlling and coercive behaviour.
The findings of the mission, which included London, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Cookstown, Cardiff and Bristol, will be discussed in the report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.