A landmark law to tackle violence against women has passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons today with an overwhelming majority of 138 in favour to just 1 against, despite an attempt by “filibustering” Tory MP Philip Davies to wreck the Bill.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP’s Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill 2017, requires the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention – a far-reaching new law that puts legal obligations on the state to prevent violence against women, protect women and prosecute the perpetrators.
The Convention encompasses many forms of sexual violence and domestic abuse including stalking, harassment, sexual assault and rape, physical and psychological abuse by a partner, forced marriage, forced abortion or sterilisation and female genital mutilation. The UK signed the treaty in 2012 but has yet to ratify it to make it part of UK law.
Tory MP Philip Davies was accused of “filibustering”, after he spoke for 91 minutes in a crude attempt to ‘talk out’ the Bill.
Mr Davies defended his position, telling MPs: “The main reason I oppose this bill is that it relates only to female victims and not all victims.”
He added: “Why do we need to have just females mentioned in this bill? Why cannot it be for all victims of these terrible crimes?”
“Yes, of course women are far more likely to be the victims of honour-based crimes than men, but they are not exclusively the victims of these crimes.”
His comments were met with shouts to “sit down” from across the house.
Commenting on Mr Davies’ actions after the debate, Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “If anything, I actually feel sorry for him and his ego.”
Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, said during the debate: “How can anyone want to block measures that prevent domestic violence and offer support to victims?”
— Jenn Selby (@JennSelby) February 24, 2017
The SNP MP for Banff and Buchan, who is the party’s Westminster spokesperson for Social Justice, secured cross-party support for her Bill, which has been championed by women’s equality organisations including IC Change, Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, White Ribbon, End Violence Against Women, Scottish Women’s convention, NUS, Girlguiding, and the Fawcett Society. The Bill also received strong support from the actor and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, who this week wrote to all MPs urging them to vote for the Bill.
Commenting after the Bill passed its Third Reading, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said: “I am delighted that this landmark legislation to combat gender-based violence has received such overwhelming cross-party support and now looks set to become UK law.
“This is a huge and historic step forward in efforts to tackle violence against women and has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of women right across the country.
“Women’s equality organisations and activists have been campaigning for the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention for many years now – so today’s vote is a cause for celebration and a testament to their sustained efforts.
“The Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive and far-reaching framework that exists to tackle violence against women in its many forms and manifestations, and critically, it provides the legal apparatus to hold governments accountable for their progress. This is a powerful vehicle for improving policy, practices and services on an ongoing basis.
“Sexual violence and domestic abuse are neither natural nor inevitable. We can prevent it, we can challenge it and we can hold perpetrators to account. We need to do all these things if we are to end this systematic abuse of women’s basic human rights, and ratifying the Istanbul Convention is a big step in the right direction.
“We have travelled some distance in this struggle but we still have such long way still to go and we need to recognise that Ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a milestone on the journey to equality and justice for women, not an end point.”
This is an edited version of an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Edits and additions by Welfare Weekly.