We at Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland are delighted that the Istanbul Convention bill has passed its 3rd reading in the House of Lords today, and is on its way to the Queen for Royal Assent. The law will put in place a timetable to ratify the Istanbul Convention, which is the most comprehensive legal framework the world has ever seen to tackle gender-based violence. We would like to give a big shout out to our sisters in Women’s Aid in England, Scotland and Wales, MP Eilidh Whiteford and her team, as well as the amazing campaigners at IC Change who worked so hard to make this day come to pass. This is a momentous day for women in the UK.

For more info, here’s IC Change’s press statement:

Volunteer-led campaign group IC Change – which is made up of survivors of gender-based violence, service workers and allies – is today celebrating one of the most significant achievements for the protection of women and girls in British political history.

A Bill to timetable the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, the gold standard in legislation against all forms of gender-based violence including so-called “honour crimes” and FGM, has successfully passed its third reading at the House of Lords. This means it will soon be passed into law and require the Government to provide progress reports on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.

Rachel Nye, co-director of IC Change, said: “We are thrilled at the success of the Bill at third reading. It is a testament to the hard work of Dr Eilidh Whiteford and the team of cross party MPs who have supported it along the way. We look forward to this Bill becoming law and seeing progress towards the end goal – the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

“We do this campaigning in our spare time. We do it because we are acutely aware of the impact violence against women has on our society. Many excellent services exist to support women and to tackle the root causes of these problems, but without a government-led, joined up approach, we are not achieving our full potential and women remain at risk.”

Cat*, a survivor who campaigns with IC Change, emphasised just how much this news means to British women.

“Having witnessed the impact of abuse on my mother, and finding out my sister endured an abusive relationship I realised that these things don’t happen in isolation. I was also raped, and I experienced everyday sexism and harassment on an almost daily bases from the age of 12. To change this, we need to an approach which joins up the dots and tackles the root causes of abuse.”

On 16th December 2016 and again on 24th February, 135 MPs from across all parties voted* in favour of the bill in the House of Commons. This legislation is needed because, on average, two women in England and Wales are killed every week by a current or former male partner and at least one in five women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.[1]

The UK Government signed a commitment to seeing it through almost five years ago, but the government have so far failed to honour their promise.

SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP originally put forward the bill, preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and domestic abuse (ratification of Convention) 2016-17.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, who brought forward the Bill, said:”I brought forward this Bill because the Istanbul Convention has the potential to change the lives of women in my own constituency of Banff and Buchan, across the whole of the UK and also globally. The Convention is the gold standard for legislation to prevent and combat violence against women and girls, and domestic abuse.
“Since I started the process of bringing forward this Bill in June 2016, the Government have moved quite significantly – with the PM committing to overseeing new legislation on domestic abuse. This could be, if the Government want it to be, the legislative vehicle to bring the UK into full compliance with the convention, paving the way for ratification.
“I’m very pleased to have been able to steer through legislation, but it’s only the beginning. Now we’ll be holding the Government to account on their report and timetable for ratification. I won’t stop this work until the UK ratifies the Istanbul Convention.”

This Bill also had backing from women’s organisations across the country including all federations of Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis, and Southall Black Sisters.

For more information visit http://icchange.co.uk/pmb/

Notes for Editors

–       The Istanbul Convention – (or full name: Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic abuse) – is the most comprehensive legal framework that exists to tackle violence against women and girls.

–       Statistic reference: Office for National Statistics (2015), ‘Violent Crime and Sexual Offences – Intimate Personal Violence and Serious Sexual Assault’, Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14, Chapter 4.

–       The IC Change campaign is a grassroots, volunteer led campaign for securing ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

–       *Cat is not her real name.

– details of the debate and vote can be found here https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-02-24/debates/e2350072-0dfe-4497-a255-6d2a807f40aa/CommonsChamber

[1] Office of National Statitics (2016),Compendium: Chapter 2 Homicide, available online  http://bit.ly/29OM1LP.

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