Violence against Women and Girls

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons am ar 7 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Clean Power and Consumers)

What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help tackle violence against women and girls.

Photo of Nicola Richards Nicola Richards Ceidwadwyr, West Bromwich East

What recent steps she has taken with Cabinet colleagues to help tackle violence against women and girls.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

Tackling violence against women and girls is one of the Government’s key priorities. We are making progress in delivering various cross-Government workstreams, including the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the rape review action plan.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Clean Power and Consumers)

Three quarters of police-recorded domestic abuse cases are closed due to evidential difficulties or because the victim does not support further action. Does the Minister agree that Labour’s proposal to put rape and domestic abuse specialists in every police force in England and Wales will give women the confidence to come forward and secure more convictions?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

We will have 2,000 rape specialists across all police forces by April. In the autumn statement, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would provide £2 million of additional funding for a flexible fund that trials one-off payments to victims of domestic abuse. That fund was made available to victims on 31 January.

Photo of Nicola Richards Nicola Richards Ceidwadwyr, West Bromwich East

Last week, I co-hosted an event here in Parliament with a delegation from Israel who have first-hand experience of the aftermath of 7 October. They described innocent women, dead or alive, who had been raped by terrorists. Hamas desecrated their bodies and even booby-trapped them. Those acts of sexual violence must be condemned by every institution and individual who cares about women’s rights.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I thank my hon. Friend and her co-chair for organising what was for attendees an extremely difficult meeting. We heard the harrowing accounts of witnesses and family members of young girls who were kidnapped on 7 October, and we heard from the first responders who found the bodies of women and girls of all ages with obvious signs of sexual violence. Female soldiers were found naked with nails and sharp objects shoved into their vaginas. One told of a mother he found with her hands tied behind her back, naked and bleeding from the waist down, shot in the back of the head, and with a live grenade left in her hand for whoever found her body.

We must support the courage of those witnesses in giving that harrowing testimony about Hamas’s mass-scale perpetration of sexual violence on 7 October. We cannot be silent about these atrocities. We must ensure that the world does not forget that sexual violence shatters lives and devastates communities. The UK stands in solidarity with survivors and continues to call for the release of the remaining hostages.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I appreciate that the Government have been trying to tackle violence against women and girls, specifically with the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Unfortunately, amendments that would have gone further to protect migrant women, who too often still feel unable to come forward and report abuse for fear of their data being shared and their being detained or deported, were not accepted. Will the Minister commit to reassessing the merits of preventing survivors’ personal data from being shared with the Home Office for immigration purposes?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

That is a matter for the Home Office. I support all the work that Home Office Ministers are doing to tackle domestic abuse, and I know there would have been good reasons for not accepting those amendments to the Act. We will continue to do all we can. I have just heard from the Minister for safeguarding—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Laura Farris—that concessions are being made. We will continue to work with her and others to tackle domestic violence in all its forms.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

In some instances, there are good reasons why immigration control should be able to work with forces of law enforcement when it comes to domestic abuse. My constituent Emma has been serially abused, harassed and stalked by a US national, who crosses the border with no visa—he does not need one—to continue his campaign of harassment. Will my right hon. Friend please work closely with the Home Office to ensure that British women are protected from foreign abusers who have found ways around our immigration system?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

My right hon. Friend is right to raise that. I ask her to let her constituent know that the Government are doing all they can. The safeguarding Minister has said that she will write to my right hon. Friend so that this specific case can be further investigated.