On 25 November it was the UN International Day to #EndViolenceAgainstWomen as per UN resolution 54/134. I marked it through writing a Twitter thread throughout the course of the day. My thoughts are from my work I’ve done recently, and from 26 years of working on domestic violence.
This is the date on which, in 1960, the Mirabal sisters, Dominican Republic activists, were murdered on the order of the Dominican leader. We continue to need this day today. Why? Because 49 countries still have no laws against domestic violence. In 37 countries a rapist is exempt from prosecution if they are married to or subsequently agree to marry their victim – legalising marital rape. Globally, 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes, usually from an intimate partner. In the UK, two women per week are killed by their partner or an ex-partner.
Violence against women and girls is both a cause and a consequence of inequalities. Activists, researchers, practitioners, and campaigners cannot end this alone. Neither can Parliamentarians. We must work together with allies. But governments can make it harder to end violence against women through their policies: by underfunding refuges, cutting police, squeezing women’s incomes, and not building enough homes. It is harder for women to escape from violence or get justice over violence against them.
We must also change attitudes and beliefs about women and relationships if we want real change. The guilty verdict on Grace Millane’s murderer last week was telling. Some commentators spoke of it as a problem of women travelling alone, using dating sites, or having particular sexual habits. I will always challenge these misogynistic and sexist views.
Before becoming an MP, I spent 26 years in work to end violence against women – locally, nationally, and internationally, with women, children and young people. The last ten years before 2015, I worked with and about perpetrators at the Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) as a programme leader, and with Respect, as a trainer and research manager, setting up the national accreditation system. The men I worked with had underlying attitudes to women which they used to excuse or minimise their impact of use of abuse. These were deeply held beliefs, drawn from wider cultures of sexism or outright misogyny.
I am proud to have formed the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse, which has helped to inform the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. I spoke about perpetrator work in the Domestic Abuse Bill debate and it will be a priority for me to make sure it comes back to Parliament after the general election, and to continue the work of the APPG.
I am still only the 408th woman ever to have been sworn in as an MP in UK Parliament. Despite seeing few women, and fewer women of colour in Parliament, it is harder for politics – and society – to ignore us when we are there.
You can read the full thread on my Twitter feed below: