Stating the obvious
RCM Professional Policy Advisor Janet Fyle makes the case for investment and support for women and girls who face gender-based violence in her latest blog.
Every year 245 million women and girls aged 15 and over experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In 1999, the United Nations formally recognised 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, which this year runs from 25 November to 10 December 2023. This campaign provides an opportunity for organisations, activists, and survivors to highlight the shocking levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG) globally.
The days also highlight the lack of action by some countries and governments to prioritise action to prevent the many forms of VAWG and provide support and care for victims and survivors.
The theme for this year is Invest to prevent violence against women and girl,s and stems from the UNITE campaign for global action to advocate for ending violence against women and girls by raising awareness, sharing knowledge, and innovations including galvanising advocacy. In many countries, initiatives to end VAWG have taken a back seat as governments in some countries prioritise other policy areas.
We get given the statistics time and time again that tell us how it is for women around the world. Despite this, many governments fail to recognise VAWG as an area for urgent action. However, the UK has enacted many legislative changes and frameworks for dealing with VAWG and ensuring that victims receive care and support and that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes.
Despite the improvement in the legislative framework, the UK remains deficient in its funding to invest in programmes to prevent and end VAWG and funding for civil society groups and charities who work with victims.
Violence against women and girls is now a global public health crisis with a major social and economic impact on societies. It is one of the world’s worst human rights violations with devastating effects on the physical and mental well-being of victims throughout their lives. It ranges from intimate partner violence, domestic violence, sexual violence in conflicts, rape and femicide. VAWG has been described as a hate crime akin to acts of terrorism.
It fractures the lives of women, girls and communities and generates huge economic costs in terms of healthcare provision, justice, and social protection. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic, and civil conflicts resulting in displacement of people, poor social protection, increased poverty, and insecurity have all left women and girls vulnerable to and at higher risk of acts of violence and abuse. Worldwide, one woman or girl is killed by a partner or family member every 11 minutes. In the United Kingdom, a woman is killed every three days by a man. Domestic abuse now accounts for 18% of all recorded crimes in England and Wales.
Pregnancy is often a trigger for male violence, with one in three women who suffer from domestic abuse during their lifetime reporting the first incidence of violence happened during pregnancy. Domestic abuse is a significant contributory factor to maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Domestic abuse costs £66 billion a year in the UK with the largest proportion being the physical and emotional harm caused to victims at a cost of £47 billion. Especially domestic abuse is a risk factor for poor perinatal mental health.
What can we do?
Together with legislation, law enforcement, and speedy judicial response, we need investment in evidence-based education and awareness programmes aimed at boys and men. Alongside this, we can make a marked difference in the lives of victims and in the prevention if the government provides investment and support for civil society organisations and charities, and discrete perinatal mental health support for pregnant women.
What is still lacking is the political will to fund the necessary interventions appropriately and sustainably.
Office for National Statistics (ONS). Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2022. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2022.
Domestic Abuse Act 2021, c.17. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2021/17/contents/enacted
Oliver R, Alexander B, Roe S, Wlasny . The economic and social costs of domestic abuse. Research report 107, January 2019. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5f637b8f8fa8f5106d15642a/horr107.pdf