Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to publish the Government’s new strategy on tackling violence against women and girls today (21 July 2021).
The strategy will set out the ambition to increase support for victims and survivors, increase the number of perpetrators brought to justice and to reduce the prevalence of violence against women and girls in the long-term.
The Government has promised 'a radical programme of change in the whole system’s response to these crimes'.
Following Sarah Everard's murder in March and the subsequent public conversation on the safety of women and girls, the Home Secretary reopened the Government’s Call for Evidence on tackling crimes that disproportionately affect women. The Home Office received 160,000 further responses over two weeks, taking the total to over 180,000 responses which have helped shape the new strategy.
While the strategy is focusing on long term change, the Government has said it will be taking some immediate steps to improve safety for women and girls.
- A new national policing lead on Violence Against Women and Girls who will report into the Home Secretary-chaired National Policing Board. They will also be the point of contact for every police force to ensure best practice is shared and that progress on improving the response to these crimes is being monitored.
- A review of options to limit use of Non-Disclosure Agreements in cases of sexual harassment in higher education.
- A £5 Million ‘Safety of Women at Night’ Fund, in addition to the £25 million Safer Streets Fund Round 3, that focuses on the prevention of violence against women and girls in public spaces at night, including in the night-time economy. This could include targeting parks and alleyways, and routes from bars, restaurants and nightclubs as we see a return to the night-time economy.
- Criminalising virginity testing, which some women and girls are being forced to undergo, to send a clear message that this practice is wholly unacceptable in our society.
- Appointing two new Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champions, to drive forward positive change and tackle the problems faced by female passengers on public transport.
Jayne Butler, Rape Crisis England & Wales CEO said:
“Violence against women and girls (VAWG), including sexual violence and abuse, is a widely recognised and long-term cause and consequence of persistent sex and gender inequalities worldwide. With reports of different kinds of VAWG increasing and criminal justice outcomes for survivors and victims decreasing, the need for urgent, radical and holistic action has never been more clear.
"The language of today’s VAWG strategy is encouraging, especially its prioritisation of prevention and of access to specialist support for survivors and victims, including those most marginalised.
"We’re optimistic about some of its specific pledges, including a multi-million-pound communications campaign focusing on perpetrators of male violence against women and girls, harmful misogynistic attitudes and raising awareness and understanding of consent, healthy relationships and the impacts of VAWG, all of which we’ve called for for some time.
"But as with the Government’s rape review that precedes it, the value of this strategy can only be measured by its implementation and outcomes, and crucially, by the long-term investment Government is willing to commit to it.
"We also must not forget that the vast majority of those subjected to VAWG crimes, including 90% of survivors and victims of rape and sexual violence and abuse, know the perpetrator before the offence.
"While measures to improve street safety are of course important, they cannot and will not be successful without significant systemic and cultural change.”