Motion as passed by conference
Submitted by: Liberal Democrat Women
Mover: Caroline Voaden.
Summation: Christine Jardine MP.
Conference notes that:
- Sexual violence, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse remain endemic in our society:
- In 2019/20, 4.9 million women were victims of sexual assault in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
- A third of 16-18-year-old girls report experiencing unwanted sexual touching at school, according to End Violence Against Women.
- The pandemic has made the situation worse:
- The ONS report into Domestic abuse during the pandemic in November 2020 found increased demand for victim services and indicators that severity of abuse has increased.
- Plan International UK found that since lockdown began, 1 in 5 girls aged 14-21 experienced public sexual harassment.
- By 2030, 2 million more girls are now at risk of undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) due to the pandemic according to Plan International.
- The justice system is failing many victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence:
- Out of 139,000 rapes estimated by the ONS in the year ending March 2020, only 58,845 were reported to police. Of those, just 2.4% ended in convictions.
- Three in four domestic abuse cases in England and Wales end without charge, according to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.
- Those from minority backgrounds experience domestic abuse disproportionately:
- ONS figures for 2019 show that disabled women were more than twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled women.
- LGBT+ people are significantly more likely to experience domestic abuse, with 13 per cent of bisexual women facing intimate partner abuse in 2019/20, according to Stonewall.
- In 2019, 60 per cent of UK police forces admitted referring victims of crime to the Home Office for immigration purposes, harming migrant women.
- The Domestic Abuse Act 2021, whilst very welcome, still contains policy gaps, including failure to provide equal protection for migrant women.
- The funding for domestic abuse services in the 2021 Budget falls short of the figure that Women's Aid says is needed by over £200 million per year.
- The UK has failed to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a treaty creating a global framework for protecting women from violence.
Conference believes that:
- Everyone, regardless of identity, has the right to live a life free from fear and violence.
- The Conservative Government is failing to properly tackle continuing violence against women and girls in our society.
- Investing in raising awareness, education, and policies aimed at prevention is vital and prevents greater costs long-term.
- An intersectional approach to violence against women and girls is imperative to provide high level care and support to the most vulnerable victims.
- Disclosures of abuse must be made easier and always taken seriously by authorities who offer a trauma-informed response.
- Ending violence against women and girls must be a top priority for all levels of government.
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitments to:
- Improve and reform the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum, including age-appropriate education on consent from primary school.
- Expand the number of refuge and rape crisis centres, including specialist provision.
- Give Local Authorities the duty and funding to provide appropriate accommodation and support for survivors of abuse
- Recognise misogyny as a hate crime.
Conference calls on the Government to:
- Increase efforts to prevent and detect violence against women and girls by:
- Funding an NHS-style public awareness campaign, including on long-lasting trauma impacts.
- Consulting education leaders and the specialist violence against women and girls sector, to take immediate action on sexual harassment in school.
- Implementing guidance to include awareness of public sexual harassment and its consequences in the national curriculum.
- Upskilling all school staff via training to ensure confidence in correctly and sensitively handling disclosures of a sexual or abusive nature.
- Introducing a duty on public authorities to ensure all frontline staff are trained to detect and respond appropriately to domestic abuse.
- Improving cross-government coordination of policies and services for separating families across England and Wales.
- Establishing a plan to tackle the social recovery of vulnerable and at-risk women and girls following the pandemic.
- Ensuring the child’s safety and needs are put first when decisions are made as to the appropriate level of contact with an abusive parent.
- Improve outcomes for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse by:
- Ensuring migrant women have equal access to protection from abuse.
- Introducing training and guidance for organisations on making their services more trans inclusive.
- Offering a long-term funding model for specialist services, including specialist BAME and LGBT+ services, so they can plan strategically and fully focus on providing support.
- Introducing mandatory training for police and the Crown Prosecution Service in understanding the impact of trauma on victims.
- Improving access to independent legal support for victims, including those with no recourse to public funds.
- Introducing mandatory awareness training for local authority Children’s Services staff to enable them to appropriately examine and record allegations of domestic abuse which may present as parental conflict.
- Ensuring appropriate support is available for those who do not flee from their abuser.
- Strengthen the justice system to properly deal with sexual violence and domestic abuse by:
- Urgently increasing funding to reduce Criminal and Family court backlogs.
- Extending protections of 16 and 17-year-olds by expanding the definition of 'position of trust', to include all adults who work/volunteer with under-18s.
- Legislating to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence.
- Legislating to make the promotion of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) a hate crime.
- Establish the UK as a leader in domestic and global efforts to end violence against women and girls by:
- Ratifying the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible.
- Setting up an independent commission on 'Ending Violence Against Women and Girls' for ongoing, sustainable accountability and progress in domestic and global efforts.
Applicability: England and Wales.