Last week, we welcomed draft legislation for a new Domestic Abuse Bill making it into the Queen’s Speech, but debated whether, without certain measures, it would be enough to have an impact.
Today, following letters from CEOs and directors of IC Change UK and women’s sector organisations, the government confirmed that it will be including steps to protect women and girls from crimes committed abroad.
At the moment, if a British woman is beaten or raped outside of the UK by her British partner, he cannot be charged at home. This means it falls to the country where the incident took place to take action. In many countries, domestic violence and rape laws are not upheld in the same manner as they are in the UK. Often, it will be seen as a British matter, leaving justice for survivors hanging in limbo between the two nations.
Introducing extra territorial jurisdiction – the ability to try crimes committed against British women abroad at home – would end this.
“These measures will help us bring justice to women who experience these abhorrent crimes anywhere in the world and shows perpetrators there is nowhere to hide,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in a statement.
The new legislation would also allow the UK to take a further step towards ratifying the Istanbul Convention – the gold standard in legislation for the protection of women and girls from all forms of gender-based violence, including FGM and so-called “honour” crimes.
— IC Change (@ICChangeUK) June 28, 2017
The announcement has been praised by a number of organisations, including domestic violence abuse charity Women’s Aid.
“This is a really significant step for survivors,” Polly Neate, the Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said. “Women’s Aid, alongside IC Change, has long campaigned for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and this latest announcement removes the last obstacle to ratification so let’s see the Istanbul Convention ratified as soon as the bill is passed.
“The Government has taken a crucial step forward in holding perpetrators to account wherever they commit their crime. The legislation must be delivered alongside specialist training for the police, judiciary and all parts of our public sector to give survivors confidence that the system will protect them and deal with their abusers effectively.
— WomensEqualityUK (@WEP_UK) June 28, 2017
“We are pleased to see the Government is committed to making the Istanbul Convention a reality rather than a dream.”
IC Change, the volunteer-led group who spearheaded the campaign for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, also praised the move, but added that they will be keeping on the pressure to ensure the government honour its promise.
“We are pleased the government has announced today that it will be taking the final step to enable ratification of the Istanbul Convention,” a statement read.
“The final law to be sorted in the UK is important, as it means that rape and domestic violence will be recognised as serious crimes that can and should be prosecuted, even when they occur outside the UK. This will help end the impunity of UK citizens who commit violence abroad and help bring justice to those who have experienced violence.
— Nathan Sparling (@nathansparkling) June 28, 2017
“We are hugely proud of the efforts by everyone involved in campaigning – and will be keeping the pressure on as this law progresses.”
According to the Guardian, 2million people suffer domestic abuse in England and Wales every year. Two women a week in England and Wales are killed at the hands of their partner.
The Labour party also expressed its intentions to ratify the Istanbul Convention as a matter of priority during its election campaign.