Constituents have contacted me recently about the Istanbul Convention. I am very concerned that violence against women and girls (VAWG) remains a hugely significant problem across the UK, with up to 3 million women experiencing violence each year.
The Istanbul Convention is a historic international treaty that requires states to take comprehensive action, set out minimum standards and create legally binding measures to tackle and prevent violence against women and girls. Crucially, the Convention gives all survivors of domestic abuse the right to access the specialist support services which they need to live in safety and rebuild their lives.
On average, two women a week are killed in England and Wales by a current or former partner, but the Government is overseeing the closure of many domestic violence shelters for women, removing the last line of hope and safety for victims of violence and abuse. Since 2010, 17% of specialist refuges in England have closed down. On one typical day, Women’s Aid said that 155 women and 103 children were turned away from refuges because there was not enough space. I do not believe that women should continue to bear the brunt of Government cuts at the expense of their safety and well-being. That is why I believe the Government should honour its commitment and ratify the Istanbul Convention.
In March 2016, the Government published its Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy for 2016-2020. While I welcome the steps outlined in the strategy, I want to see the commitments made to vulnerable women and girls followed through, so that they do not just remain as warm words. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention would demonstrate a clear commitment to this goal.
I believe we need to do more to address VAWG at home as well as abroad. At the general election I stood on a manifesto which included commitments to introduce a Violence against Women and Girls Bill, appoint a commissioner to set minimum standards in tackling domestic and sexual violence and to provide more stable funding for women’s refuges and Rape Crisis Centres.
The Government must take urgent action to tackle domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. I can assure you that I will continue to pressure the Government to set a date to ratify the Istanbul Convention without further delay.