Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, told a LabourList fringe event at party conference that “rapists have never had it so good” while criticising Tory government inaction.
“When you have been raped, when you have been beaten, this government asks you for a stamp in your passport before they ask you how they can help,” the Labour frontbencher and MP for Birmingham Yardley said.
The Labour conference event hosted by LabourList and the End Violence Against Women Coalition on Sunday afternoon explored tackling violence against women and girls, and the reforms that ministers could be implementing.
Andrea Simon, the director of the EVAW Coalition, spoke about how the murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and more recently Sabina Nessa had pushed conversations about VAWG to the fore.
“We call it VAWG, but the reality of what we’re talking about is men’s violence against women,” Phillips said. She later added: “Women’s lives are not a priority for the government. It is literally as simple as that.”
Ellie Reeves, who has criticised the “effective decriminalisation of rape” in England and Wales, said: “In the government’s own words, they have failed, and their rape review does nothing to address those failings”.
Labour’s Shadow Solicitor General added: “We have absolutely, fundamentally failed women if we think the only way that they can be kept safe from male violence is by having CCTV in parks and on streets.”
On the government’s VAWG strategy, which received 180,000 submissions, she said ultimately “the strategy offered us policemen in nightclubs, which I think no-one out of 180,000 respondents asked for”.
Victim’s commissioner and former Labour MP Vera Baird spoke about her memories of the first iteration of Reclaim the Streets and described how little had changed for women across her long career.
Rosie Lewis, head of policy at Imkaan, a charity that provides services for Black and minoritised women facing domestic abuse, addressed the failings in the new domestic abuse bill.
“At Imkaan, we don’t really welcome the domestic abuse bill”, she said, explaining that “it excludes 60% of the women we serve” and it adopts a “definition of domestic abuse which is very limited and excludes many Black and minoritised women”.
The government’s VAWG strategy is “exclusionary” and offers “zero commitment to specialised services”, Lewis said. She and other speakers called on the government to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
The LabourList/End Violence Against Women Coalition event took place at 3pm on Sunday in the secure zone. The full livestream video of the event can be watched back on LabourList and YouTube.