Originally published: 30.03.16
Commit to maintaining London’s pioneering Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.
Women’s groups in London published a ‘manifesto for ending violence against women and girls in the capital,’ recently and sent open letters to Mayoral candidates highlighting the endemic levels of domestic and sexual violence in London, and asking them to make specific commitments on ending female genital mutilation (FGM), on prostitution, on ensuring support services are maintained, and the effective policing of these crimes.
A new ‘mayorwatch’ website, which will track all relevant mayoral and Assembly candidates’ pledges has also been launched.
The manifesto and open letters precede an ‘ending violence against women and girls hustings’ in central London on 12 April, with Sian Berry, Green Party; Yvette Cooper MP for Labour; Stephen Greenhalgh for the Conservatives; Annabel Mullin for the Lib Dems; and Sophie Walker, standing for the Women’s Equality Party, on the panel.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition and Imkaan’s 12-page manifesto draws on a recent YouGov survey which revealed that 40 per cent of women in London have experienced unwanted sexual contact in public places, and 33 per cent have been subject to indecent exposure.
Both these figures are higher than the national average.
It also highlighted that:
Police in London recorded 146,000 domestic violence incidents in 2015, with 28 women murdered in domestic violence-related homicides over 12 months;
Police in London recorded 5,500 rapes in 2015 (it is estimated only 10-15 per cent are reported to police);
Police in London recorded almost 300 cases of forced marriage and ‘honour-based violence’ last year (also likely to be very under-reported);
Thousands of women are estimated to be being exploited in prostitution in London;
and that Specialist support services led by and for women are suffering due to cuts and competition.
The manifesto and the letters to candidates ask them to commit to maintaining London’s pioneering Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy as developed under the current mayor Boris Johnson, and also specifically asks them to commit to:
Specialist training for police on all forms of abuse, and increased attention to online abuse;
support the police in resisting media or political pressure to drop historic investigations;
Direct funding for Rape Crisis services across the capital as the current Mayor has done since 2008;
Direct funding for BME women’s support services in London which provide holistic support for domestic and sexual violence as well as FGM, forced marriage and ‘honour’-based violence;
Ensuring London’s housing strategy includes a safe pathway for women at risk;
Maintaining a specific focus on FGM, forced marriage and ‘honour’-based violence;
Changing police policy and practice on prostitution such that women do not face criminal penalties and the policing focus is switched to ‘pimps’ and ‘punters’; and ensuring that there is a specialist exiting service available for every woman who needs it;
Ensuring that British Transport Police and TFL work tackling sexual harassment and assaults on the transport network continues; and
Ensuring the needs of women prisoners, who can be very vulnerable, are prioritised as Holloway prison is closed down.
The manifesto, the open letters to candidates and a tracker of candidates’ comments and pledges on these issues can all be seen at new website VAWGMayorWatch – which also encourages visitors to the site to contact candidates directly asking about their policies for ending violence against women and girls. So please do!!
You could also let the candidates know that policy to end violence against women and girls matters to you by sending them a message through their websites or a tweet or two: @SianBerry @ZacGoldsmith @SadiqKhan @CarolinePidgeon @SophieRunning
Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“Ending violence against women and girls has been a key pillar of Boris Johnson’s Mayoralty since 2008 and it is essential that we see this work continue.
London’s Mayor must hold the police to account for their work policing these crimes, and ensure that the victims money from central Government is well spent on support services.
The Mayor must also be prepared to lead and influence London’s boroughs on the way they respond to abuse, and be willing to shine a spotlight on critical problems including the alarming levels of sexual violence facing girls in the capital, and the way the housing crisis is impacting women and their families who need to escape abuse.
We will know London is making progress when we stop tolerating the harm prostitution is doing to women and girls in London, and when we end the acceptance of everyday sexual harassment.”
And Marai Larasi, the executive director of Imkaan, said:
“Our top priorities are to see London’s next Mayor committed to ensuring that the women-led services, including those led by BME women, which literally save lives, are supported to remain open and that the police keep up with the surge in survivors of abuse seeking protection and justice.
We need London’s next Mayor to make this a personal priority by maintaining and developing the work started by Boris Johnson.
We have a good Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and we want this to be strengthened.
We want London’s Mayor to be willing to speak out on issues, such as sexual harassment, that are too often ignored or wrapped up with blaming the victim.
London’s Mayor has significant policing, planning and spending power on violence against women and girls and can choose to make this a top priority,” she added. “We hope to hear that they will.”
Click here to register to vote on 5 May. To vote, you need to be registered by 15 April.
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