Today we join a billion rising.
Across the world women and men are standing together – rising against the violence that destroys too many girls’ and womens’ lives.
From the silent marches through Dehli to the slut walks through Detroit. From the millions who backed Malala to the Congolese City of Joy.
People are coming together to stand against the violence that can destroy the lives of women and girls across the planet.
One in three women experience violence in their lives. That’s a billion women of the world – and why we want a billion people to stand together against violence today.
Across Britain people are joining in – flashmobs in Parliament Square, dances and gatherings in Manchester, in Glasgow, in Bristol and in Belfast; from Cardiff to Newcastle, and from the Isle of Lewis to Penzance. All to raise awareness and demand change.
Thank you Jude, not just for the warm introduction; not just for providing this room, and for hosting and organising this event today; but for all of your support, and the support of the Southbank Centre throughout the last few months as the One Billion Rising campaign gathered momentum and built towards the success it achieved today.
Behind the One Billion people who we hope have risen against violence today, stand the smaller number of amazing people who have worked so hard to get this campaign off the ground.
Here in the UK, there are so many to thank – especially the individuals and organisations who have contributed so much to the organisation and to the debate:
- Robin Sneller who coordinated the event on Parliament Square today;- Rossana Abueva and Monique Wilson from One Billion Rising;- Nadja Romain from OBR Artfest – one of our groups of dancers today;- Holly Dustin and the End Violence Against Women Coalition;- Laura Bates at the Everyday Sexism Project;- The Nia Project;- Women’s Aid;- Amnesty International;- Women for Women Refugees, and many, many more…
Thank you also to Thandie Newton, Jahmene Douglas, Ruby Wax and Kathy Lette for giving their time to raise the profile of One Billion Rising this morning, along with the thousands of women and men who have attended 160 events – singing, dancing, tweeting their support alongside thousands of others around the world.
And thank you to Fiona Mactaggart, for firstly securing and then opening the important debate we have had in parliament today.
And finally, I want to also pay tribute to my colleague Stella Creasy MP, whose energy and drive has been so invaluable to One Billion Rising. Over the last weeks and months, she has been an unstoppable force, criss-crossing the country to host community campaign workshops and to get the message out there. Stella, we are grateful for the tireless work you have put into this campaign.
And it matters. Because there is still too much complacency when it comes to violence against women and girls.
Often people don’t realise the scale of the problem, it’s hidden behind the curtains, or too distressing for someone to admit.
Or they think it’s already being dealt with, they take for granted the progress made over many years and assume everything possible is now being done.
Or perhaps worst of all, they think it’s one of those uncomfortable facts of life, too difficult to solve.
Today we are challenging the complacent
Shouting out about the shocking scale of the problem still
Sharing how much more can be done – including practical steps here at home right now that could make a difference and save lives
Showing that we won’t tolerate people being victims of violence simply because they are women
Shouting out because everyone has a right to feel safe in their home, on the street, in their workplace, in their community.
And too many women don’t.
We know progress has been made over the last two decades.
Thanks to campaigners and action over the years, we saw the introduction of specialist courts to deal with domestic violence. specialist police officers to deal with rape cases, backed by new forensics. Extra help from councils for women to find refuge, or get extra security in their own homes. New standards. New training. New guidance.
The rape conviction rate rose – though it is still far too low.
Incidents of domestic violence fell – though they are still far too high.
Because despite the progress, the scale of the problem remains huge.
We know there is so much more to do.
Consider the way victims of sexual or domestic violence are treated.
This week we heard the tragic story of Frances Andrade – failed by a criminal justice system that was supposed to help her.
According to her family the police told her she should not have counselling before the court case.
Yet there has been national guidance since 2002 saying victims should be offered counselling before trial and that the victims needs came first.
According to her family she wasn’t told what would happen in court. Yet for years there has been a clear responsibility for the CPS in rape cases to make sure that the victim gets proper support, is forewarned about what to expect in court and can have special arrangements made.
Even though she had tried to commit suicide before, even then she wasn’t given the help she needed.
And we don’t know how many other things may have gone wrong.
It is deeply appalling that Frances Andrade was let down in this way.
And it’s not just Frances Andrade.
As another victim told me yesterday, she felt she had been abused twice – once as crime, the second time by the criminal justice system that let her down.
And she told me that in her experience, even where there is guidance in place, it can be ignored and women are let down.
We cannot stand by and allow this to happen.
I am fed up with getting nothing but warm words or waffle from those in charge.
No serious action is being taken as a result of what happened to Frances Andrade
No serious review of the whole case to find out what went wrong.
No one is looking properly at what happened.
We know the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner has said the police did the right thing
The Attorney General has said the CPS did the right thing
The Judge has said the lawyers in the court did the right thing.
Everyone says they did their bit – yet a woman died.
Everyone says lessons will be learned, but how?
No one is looking properly at what went wrong.
The Home Secretary has refused to commission a full case review into what happened
And she has refused to make sure that police forces in practice support counselling for victims.
If the Government won’t act the rest of us must. I’m contacting police forces across the country to remind them of the national guidance on supporting victims and vulnerable witnesses and to ask if it is being followed.
But we need to go further.
Two women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex
Only 1% of sexual offences ever reach a conviction
One in five 999 calls are domestic violence – and around a third of them are repeat calls.
The mother who told me she used to lock herself and her children into a single bedroom at night fearful for what her husband would do, but afraid to leave.
The teenager terrified to tell anyone she had been raped – afraid of repercussions, afraid it was what was expected or what she deserved, to ashamed to talk to a friend or a police officer
And still we see shocking cases of human trafficking or appalling cases of female genital mutilation, where no prosecutions have yet been brought.
Much more needs to be done.
More by the police to target repeat perpetrators
More by the NHS, councils and schools to identify women and children at risk and provide them with help to stay safe
More by the courts and the CPS to support victims of domestic and sexual violence – and get them justice
We need a new framework of national standards – for domestic and sexual violence – and they should be enforced
We need a new national board – learning from the experience of the Youth Justice Board – to make sure progress is made
Because otherwise we will see the clock turned back.
Already Labour’s Women’s Safety Commission found that services affecting women’s safety were being disproportionately hit.
Refuges and specialist advice are losing 31 percent of their funds. Chaotic changes to commissioning in the NHS, police and local councils, were putting services for vulnerable women at risk.
And even the things you wouldn’t think of straight away – half a million street lights are being switched off with no assessment of the impact on women’s safety or fear of crime.
And much more needs to be done on preventing violence in the first place.
In part that means the events we have seen today. Raising awareness. Challenging violence. Challenging assumptions. Challenging complacency.
In part it means campaigns like one billion rising. Or the fantastic @everydaysexism which is encouraging women of all ages to stand up against sexism and harassment and encouraging men to show their support.
And it means challenging the tolerance of violence and sexual harassment in public debate, wider culture and the media too.
But we can also take immediate practical steps with children and young people.
Developing respect among young people for each other and for themselves is vital. No one wants young boys growing up believing it is masculine to bully or sexually abuse, feeling under pressure to join in. No one wants young girls growing up believing that abuse is normal, or that they have to accept sexual pressure, coercion or violence in any relationship. The respect and resilience teenagers develop can help prevent violence and abusive relationships for decades to come.
Yet far from building that resilience the evidence suggests that teenage attitudes to violence may be getting worse.
The Children’s Commissioner has said 2,400 children are victims of sexual exploitation by groups and gangs – with a further 16,500 identified as being at risk.
Research by the NSPCC found that a third of teenage girls in relationships have experienced physical or sexual violence in relationships. One in 16 said they had been raped.
And the NSPCC have warned about “vulnerable children and young people …getting access to hard core pornography . We have serious concerns about children accessing this online as it gives them an unrealistic and sometimes dangerous view of sexual relations.”
With internet, smart phones and modern technology, young people have a different world to navigate than previous generations.
Evidence suggests more children are seeing pornography earlier – and also violent and extreme pornography too – which can shape their attitudes to sex and relationships in an unhealthy way.
They also face new pressures from things like sexting, abuse and bullying where explicit photos usually of girls, are sent in seconds round half their class mates at school.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has warned that there is a “risk of a whole new generation of domestic violence.”
And it is that violence among the next generation we should be working hard to prevent now.
Yes parents can do their bit. But schools need to act too. Because let’s be realistic. Teenagers aren’t renowned for being keen to listen to embarassing things their parents say.
Default parental controls on computers are helpful too. But again most of us as parents know we struggle to keep up with our children on new technology.
That is why the case has become stronger than ever for making sure zero tolerance of violence in relationships is part of compulsory sex and relationship education in schools.
Education which challenges sexism and abuse, education which builds respect and self respect, education which helps young people understand that the violent imagery they see is not normal, and helps them navigate the peer pressure they face.
We debated that case in Parliament today. Powerful speeches from Fiona MacTaggart and others made an overwhelming case for action.
And the legislation has been ready and waiting for three years.
Legislation to make sex and relationship education compulsory was drawn up and pushed most of the way through Parliament just before the last election, when it was blocked by Michael Gove. And there has been no movement since.
I simply cannot understand why Ministers refuse to support this
I cannot see the objection to requiring our children and young people to be taught not to hurt each other, taught to recognise that sexual abuse is not normal it is deeply wrong.
Because in the end this is about stopping violence for future generations.
Campaigners in the seventies and eighties succeeded in strengthening the laws making domestic violence or rape within marriage crimes
Campaigners in the nineties and noughties backed by Ministers like Harriet Harman, Vera Baird and Patricia Scotland helped bring in specialist advisors, training and support for victims
Campaigners can deliver change again
As our mothers and grandmothers did before us, we will stand together, standing women and men against violence
One billion rising