Women’s Aid have today launched a petition calling on the Northern Ireland Assembly to develop and implement a Violence Against Women & Girls Strategy in NI. We are the only part of the United Kingdom that does not have a specific strategy dedicated to tackling gender-based violence, which means that our women and girls are being let down, simply because of where they live!
We know that domestic abuse and gender-based violence disproportionately affects women and girls, however here in NI there is nothing in place to address this. The absence of a VAWG Strategy in Northern Ireland is an inequality to the women and girls living here, are they not worthy of the same protection as the women and girls in England, Scotland and Wales? These specific strategies give clear responsibility for regional governments to ensure a meaningful response to stop gender-based violence against women & girls in their nations.
We also emphasise that a strategy tackling gender-based violence will not discount the valid experiences of other gender identities, but instead will address the reality of the situation which is that women and girls are disproportionately affected. Today we are calling on the Assembly to take action and develop a strategy that brings us in line with the same standard as the rest of the UK.
The rates of femicide in Northern Ireland are shocking and in 2017 Northern Ireland had the highest rates of murder by a partner in the whole of Europe per head of population, this needs to be addressed. Femicides are the epitome of the state failing to respect, protect and fulfil women’s human rights and a public response of this nature minimises and obscures the scale, extent and connected nature of men’s violence against women.
In the year 2019/2020, PSNI responded to 32,105 incidents of domestic abuse, with domestic abuse accounting for 17% of all crime reported to police. In the same year Women’s Aid supported 561 women and 316 children in our refuges and across our community outreach we supported 5,536 women and 5,143 children who have experienced domestic abuse right across Northern Ireland.
Sarah Mason, CEO of Women’s Aid Federation NI said, “We are calling on the Northern Ireland Assembly to take this issue seriously and act now to put in place a VAWG strategy to ensure women and girls in Northern Ireland are treated fairly and have equality across the UK. Women’s Aid will lobby to garner support across the public in Northern Ireland and also seek support from across the UK to ensure parity in NI is achieved.”
We know that domestic and sexual abuse continues to be under-reported and prosecutions remain low and, as noted by CEDAW, Domestic Abuse Legislation in Northern Ireland remains inadequate. To effectively tackle violence against women, coordinated action from government is required, including preventative measures, early intervention and protection, victim-centred justice to address the lack of services and barriers faced by women and girls.
Domestic abuse is not going away and many women lose their lives every year. Incidents of domestic abuse are rising and protections for women are weaker than the rest of the UK.
We have received support from Louise Haigh, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who commented, “It is beyond belief that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without a violence against women and girls strategy. Such a strategy is essential to tackle the disproportionately gendered impact of violence in society. We know domestic abuse is too high, that survivors of violent and sexual abuse are routinely failed and that Northern Ireland has had one of the highest rates of femicide in Europe. These issues need to be treated as a priority, urgently.”
Violence against women is an issue that transcends borders, class and socio-economic status. It impacts women and girls in all societies and there may be more or less stigma about talking about it in certain societies but it is present in all societies.
Please support us on this Call for Action by visiting our petition.
For any further information please contact us.