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UK: UN rights expert calls for improved actions to fight violence against women and girls

LONDON / GENEVA (16 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, today urged the Government of the United Kingdom to consider the best interests of all women and girls in addressing the specific needs of survivors of violence.

“The UK Government has declared violence against women a priority, and in 2010 developed a strategy and other measures to address the problem,” Ms. Manjoo noted, “but a more comprehensive and targeted response to address acts of violence against women and girls is needed.”

“Despite many positive developments, violence against women remains a pervasive challenge throughout the United Kingdom,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

In the course of last year, she recalled, “7% of women in England and Wales reported having experienced any type of domestic abuse. This is the equivalent to 1.2 million female victims. It is also estimated that 2.5% of women reported having experienced any type of sexual assaults. This is the equivalent to an estimated 400,000 female victims.”

“Other manifestations of violence which were reported throughout my visit,” Ms. Manjoo said, “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.

“A very clear concern was articulated about the shift from gender specificity to gender neutrality in the Government’s responses to violence against women,” she warned. “The shift to a formal understanding of equality is working to privilege neutral approaches, to the detriment of gender specific initiatives and programmes.”

The Special Rapporteur also pointed out 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,” the human rights expert stressed.

Ms. Manjoo welcomed the implementation of the 2010 strategy to fight violence against women in the UK, which is accompanied by annual Action Plans developed in consultation with all relevant parties, and monitored across government departments.

She 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.

The rights expert further 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.

During her 16-day mission to the United Kingdom, the Special Rapporteur visited London, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Cookstown, Cardiff and Bristol.

The Special Rapporteur’s comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2015.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14514&LangID=E

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights Country Page – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/GBIndex.aspx

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