Government urged to reconsider requirement for survivors to attend parliament in person
Domestic abuse and women’s rights organisations write to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP saying the requirement is discriminatory, unsafe and contravenes government guidance
Eighteen domestic abuse and women’s rights organisations, including Women’s Aid Federation of England, Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Southall Black Sisters, have written to the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, to state it is unacceptable to require survivors of domestic abuse to attend parliament in person to give their views on the Domestic Abuse Bill. They are urging the government to reconsider the requirement that survivors giving evidence next week to the Domestic Abuse Public Bill Committee must only do so in person – despite current Covid-19 government guidelines.
The letter has been sent before MPs return to parliament next week. The previous ‘hybrid parliament’ arrangements, where individuals could provide evidence to scrutiny committees via videolink, are set to end. The letter highlights that the requirement for women who have experienced domestic abuse to attend parliament in person is discriminatory and unsafe. It puts the health of witnesses and those supporting them, particularly from BME communities, at risk, and contravenes government guidance.
Nicki Norman, Acting Co-Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“We welcome the Public Bill Committee’s decision to hear the expert evidence of domestic abuse survivors as they scrunitise the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill. However, it is clearly wrong to require them to give evidence in person. This requirement is unsafe for survivors, especially for women from BME communities and those with disabilities. It will put survivors and staff supporting them at risk and force them to breach current government guidance. The government must urgently reconsider this requirement. We also urge the Bill Committee to make time to hear from a wide range of organisations working to end domestic abuse, including organisations supporting marginalised survivors whose voices are often unheard. ”
Gisela Valle, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) said:
“We welcome the opportunity for migrant survivors of domestic abuse to present their experiences to the Public Bill Committee. We believe it is fundamental that the Bill’s process is fed by those who know first-hand how the current system is failing to protect all survivors. Nevertheless, we are highly concerned that survivors have been asked to attend the Parliament in person despite the pandemic, its disproportionate effect on BME communities and social distancing measures. This is unnecessarily exposing them to the risk of infection. For all these reasons, we are calling on the Government to prioritise the safety of survivors and to enable witnesses to present evidence remotely.”
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters, said:
‘Southall Black Sisters is supporting a user to give evidence to the Public Bill Committee to highlight the growing gap in protection from abuse for migrant women with No Recourse to Public Funds. However, this important opportunity to give evidence should made not be made conditional upon her attendance in Parliament in person to do so. This unacceptable condition of attendance only serves to jeopardise the safety of survivors and their key workers, as well as flout the rule on non-essential travel. In a context where facilities exist for participants to give evidence remotely, there is no justification for the requirement. Given that BME groups are amongst those disproportionately affected by Covid-19, BME survivors and the staff who support them will be placed at unnecessary risk. We urge the Government to reconsider.’
Read the joint letter here.
Notes to editors
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