Landmark win gives survivors their voice back but Women’s Aid calls on government to make right to vote in safety a reality for life
Women’s Aid is proud to have worked in partnership with the courageous Mehala Osborne and 38 Degrees to bring the issue of Anonymous Voter Registration onto the political agenda; meaning survivors of domestic abuse will be able to register to vote without revealing their location. With the help of our supporters, we are delighted to see the government listen to women’s voices and begin work on these much-needed reforms. However, we now call on the government to go further in making survivors’ right to vote in safety a reality by making Anonymous Voter Registration valid for the rest of survivors’ lives.
The changes to Anonymous Voter Registration announced by the Cabinet Office today (Sunday 3rd September) will see real change for survivors, removing some of the insurmountable barriers to registering anonymously and exercising their right to vote in safety, ultimately increasing survivors’ participation in democracy.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid:
“The changes announced today will help survivors of domestic abuse to regain their voices. For too long these women have been silenced because it was too dangerous for them to sign up to an electoral register, which would reveal their location, and too difficult for them to register anonymously. For them anonymity is a matter of life or death; with the very real threat of being hunted down by their perpetrator.
“We are proud to have worked in partnership with the courageous Mehala Osborne and 38 Degrees to bring this issue onto the political agenda, and with the help of our supporters, we have been able to bring about this change. We thank the government for their decisive action on this. The new measures send out a clear message to all survivors of domestic abuse: that their voices matter, and their right to vote should never be taken away.
“However, survivors continue to be at risk of being hunted down by their perpetrator for many years to come. Often women are on the run from domestic abuse for the rest of their lives. We urge the government to use the domestic violence and abuse bill to pass legislative changes to make survivors’ Anonymous Voter Registration valid indefinitely so that they can vote in safety for life.”
Women’s Aid is particularly delighted to see that refuge managers are now going to be listed as individuals who can support an application. This will make a huge difference to maintaining the confidential location of refuges as well as ensuring the safety of all women and children living in refuges after fleeing their homes.
Survivors of domestic abuse, however, continue to be at risk long after they leave refuge. On average, two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a partner or ex-partner. Therefore, many survivors are forced to re-register for anonymous voting every year to ensure their long-term safety.
We call on the government to extend the length of time survivors’ Anonymous Voter Registration is valid for with legislative changes through the domestic violence and abuse bill to make Anonymous Voter Registration for women living in fear of their lives indefinite.
Mehala Osborne, survivor and founder of the Right to Vote campaign, said:
“I was denied a vote whilst living in a refuge, and I never realised how much having a vote meant till it was taken away. I had already been through enough, and to be disempowered even more was so difficult. I am so proud to have started the campaign that has led to these proposed change. Survivors in the future will not be denied their voice and democratic right to vote.”
Sue Tapper, Refuge Domestic Abuse Advocate at Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid Refuge, said:
“Women fleeing domestic abuse have a long struggle to find themselves again as they attempt to rebuild their self-esteem. Anonymous voter registration is key to this process, re-establishing their voice within society and gaining back control of who they are and how they feel.
“These reforms will give reassurance to women that are currently disenfranchised and unable to safely register their vote free from fear of disclosure of their location. They will enable women to live their lives as a survivor, and not a victim, of domestic abuse.”
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