Domestic Violence: How does the UK Stack up Against the Rest of the World?

United Nation’s Report Progress of the Worlds Women : In Pursuit of Justice 2011-2012 :

Briefing on Legal Frameworks and Domestic Violence (Chapter One)


This blog looks at information on domestic violence in the recently published UN report and looks at the evidence in the UK, including reference to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) report of this week; Counting the Cuts. 

The UN report describes violence against women and girls as

“an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination and a tool to maintain women’s subordinate status”.

Stating that historically, governments have been ambivalent to regulating gender relations in the private domain and intimate relationships, the report boldly claims that this has contributed to a widespread perception that abuse in this sphere is acceptable. I prefer to think of this ambivalence as failing to tackle this perception whose causes probably lie in culture, religion and economics.

States have a duty to enact and implement legislation (UN General Assembly 1948, 1966a, and 1998; Organization of American States 1994; Council of Europe 2002; African Union 2003; ASEAN 2004.)

The Courts have played a key role in legal change

How does the UK Stack Up?

UN Report How does the UK stack up?
In 17 / 41 countries, a quarter or more people think it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife 20% of people in theUKthink that domestic violence is justified (Ipsos Mori 9 March 2009)
Where laws are in place on domestic violence, prevalence is lower and fewer people think that such abuse is acceptable.125 countries have passed legislation on domestic violence Criminal legislation covers a number of aspects domestic violence including assault, false imprisonment, criminal damage, harassment, attempted murder and rape. Criminal legislation rarely covers emotional abuse. 
2/3 countries have taken steps to make workplaces and public places safer through legislation to tackle sexual harassment. This is covered by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as amended by the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005.The Equality Act 2006 also required public bodies to promote equality between women and men and to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment and promote equality of opportunity. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 made it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.
52 countries have explicitly made marital rape a crime.  In the UK the House of Lords in 1992 struck down the 250 year-old common law  principle that a marriage contract automatically implied each partner’s full consent to all sexual activity, thus until that time permitting marital rape
Full and sustained funding is essential to ensuring adequate implementation of legislation.  The Home Office has “committed to £28m (in total) of stable Home Office funding for specialist services over the next four years, improving the response to rape, more training and early intervention programmes, new powers and better support for victims.” National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in its report Counting the Cuts found that over the same 4 year period The UK voluntary and community sector as a whole will lose around £2.8 billion in public funding. This sector provides many of the services which ensure adequate implementation of legislation alongside the public sector which as a whole is expected to fall by £20 billion or 3%.
Although violence against women is a criminal matter, there is significant overlap with other branches of the law. Family courts often deal with domestic violence and dowry violence cases, which may include significant civil components, including protection orders, divorce and custody issues. Courts adjudicating immigration matters often handle trafficking cases. This is true of theUK.
Regularly collecting data on the prevalence and impact of violence against women and girls helps to drive implementation of laws. The British Crime Survey and official Home Office statistics measure issues relating to domestic violence.The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) noted in response to the national statistician’s review of crime statistics identifies as a major omission that the Home Office definition of domestic violence does not include the impact on children.

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