Women’s Aid Federations join forces to call on government to ratify Istanbul Convention

Monday 28th November 2016

Women’s Aid England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have joined forces to call on the Government to take action on violence against women and girls.

The four federations are asking MPs to attend the Second Reading debate of the Private Members Bill on the Istanbul Convention on the 16th December. If 100 MPs attend, the UK will be one step closer to ratifying the Istanbul Convention – a vital action that has not been undertaken since the UK signed up to it 4 years ago.

The Istanbul Convention is the first international treaty to establishing a legally-binding definition of violence against women as “a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women”. It is the most comprehensive international treaty to tackle violence against women, requesting states to criminalise forms of violence against women.

In addition, it requires states to support women and girls by protecting access to specialist domestic abuse services – such as those run by Women’s Aid members all over the UK – that support the thousands of women and children that experience abuse every year.

However, until the UK Government ratifies the Istanbul Convention, women and girls living in the UK cannot benefit from it. This is despite the fact that living a life free from violence and abuse is a human right.

Available data for 2015 shows that 123 women in the UK were known or suspected to have been killed by men. This means that one woman was killed every three days. Violence against women, and the demand for expert support for various forms of abuse, remains extremely high. In addition, all over the UK, life-saving domestic abuse services are at risk, and are concerned about their insecure funding. Women’s Aid England Annual Survey 2015 found that almost half (44%) of the domestic abuse services were running part of their service without dedicated funding. On just one day, 92 women and 75 children were turned away from refuge. For nearly half of the women (45.65%), it was because there was not enough space for them.

However, if the Government ratified the Istanbul Convention, there would be a clear comprehensive framework for change setting out the steps the UK needs to take to prevent violence, protect women experiencing violence, and prosecute perpetrators.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Federation England, said:

“The Government has already signalled its commitment to ending violence against women by signing the Istanbul Convention. They have also taken decisive action to protect domestic abuse refuges from closure, and protect these services in response to Women’s Aid campaigning. And, with an average of two women a week being killed by a partner in England and Wales, we cannot be complacent.

“So now we need this next step – and if 100 MPs attend the Second Reading, we’ll be on our way there. At a time of great political turmoil, and as we prepare to leave the European Union, the UK must show that we can set our own robust standards to end violence against women. Of course, this is a Council of Europe convention, completely separate from the EU. Yet to ratify now would not only protect women fleeing violence in the UK, and the services which support them, it would also be a statement of cooperation with our European neighbours. It would be a statement that violence against women really matters – and that when it comes to what really matters, we can still work with Europe.”

  • We need you to write to your MP, to ask them to attend this historic debate on 16 December and support the Istanbul Convention Bill 
  • You can find out who your MP is here
  • Download this template letter – feel free to personalise it to let your MP know why action on domestic abuse matters to you
  • Find out more about this important debate here
  • Read the joint Women’s Aid Letter to MPs here


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