Labour MEPs call for UK ratification of the Istanbul Convention and more funding for women’s refuges – as violence against women and girls is expected to rise if Brexit happens

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Labour MEPs are calling for critical action to tackle rising levels of gender-based violence in the UK.

Jackie Jones MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on women’s rights and gender equality, said:

“The UK has the fifth highest level of violence against women and girls and yet the refuges which offer a safe haven from violence for these women and girls are under threat.

“The level of sexual violence, domestic violence and femicides has risen by 23-25 per cent a year since the Brexit vote and police-recorded sex offences rose 25%.

“The UK also has some of the worst rates of sexual violence against women and girls in the whole of the EU – and partner-perpetrated violence affects 29% of women affected. Britain also has the sixth highest rate of sexual harassment in the EU.

“However people need to know that if Brexit goes ahead the funding that comes to UK women’s organisations is at risk, and these are already over-stretched services at it is.

“The EU has consistently urged the UK to ratify the Istanbul Convention but the UK remains one of only seven current EU nations which have failed to do so. I am also very concerned about what will happen to the UK government’s Domestic Abuse Bill when parliament returns after the election.”

Labour MEPs are calling for increased funding for women’s refuges – two-thirds of which are facing closure after a decade of Tory cuts. Over-stretched services will be hard hit by a loss of EU funding and expected further cuts by the Tories if Brexit happens.

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP added:

“Historically, victims of rape and sexual and domestic abuse have suffered from an unjustifiable stigma and, in consequence, violence against women goes mostly unreported. The reality of many women’s lives is still an incomplete picture and this is one of our society’s most unforgivable failures. It’s time women’s voices were heard for good.

“With some of the worst rates of sexual violence across Europe, and a Brexit that would wreck women’s rights potentially just around the corner, the UK cannot delay ratifying the Istanbul Convention any longer. This would be the most significant leap forward in eliminating violence against women and protecting our futures.”

The UK is also one of only seven EU member states to not ratify the Istanbul Convention – a key piece of legislation tackling violence against women and girls and protecting rights and support for survivors of gender-based violence.

The Labour Party manifesto has committed to ratifying the Istanbul Convention and Labour has pledged to appoint a Commissioner for Violence against Women and Girls. It has also promised to establish a National Refuge Fund, ensure financial stability for rape crisis centres and hold an independent review of the alarmingly low rape prosecution rates.

Labour MEPs strongly support the ambitious commitments of Labour’s manifesto and the call for greater funding for women’s refuges and improved, comprehensive legislation tackling violence against women and girls.

Labour MEPs also support the white ribbon pledge – where men commit to standing in solidarity with women and working to stop violence again women and girls. Today, women and men are raising awareness and taking action to tackle violence against women and girls, with events and initiatives being held around the world and in every region and nation of the UK.”