Violence against women and girls is fundamentally discrimination against an individual based on their gender. Women and girls still suffer from various forms of abuse with 382 reported cases of domestic violence in Tower Hamlets alone between 2014 and 2015.
In 2013, Tower Hamlets implemented the three-year ‘Violence against Women and Girls’ strategy to allow the public to develop a better understanding of this issue, support victims, challenge attitudes and make a difference to the lives of all those living in the borough. The programme has now re-launched and is expected to last till 2019.
Jeremy Browne, Minister for Crime Prevention, in the 2013 ‘A call to end violence against women and girls’ action plan said, ‘both legally and culturally, women today have more freedom and control – however, the scale of violence against women and girls shows that inequalities continue and that many women are still living in fear.’ The violence can range from prostitution, forced marriages, stalking and sexual and domestic violence.
This strategy addressed the issue by working with children and young people to prevent violence against women and girls by allowing members of the community to have access to regular networking meetings and seminars to provide peer-to-peer support.
As women and girls suffer from domestic violence, ‘their self-esteem is often being crushed so it is even harder to find the self-belief, courage and energy to change their situation,’ said psychotherapist, Rakhi Chand.
The strategy aims to provide victims and their friends and family with education to ensure that if anyone knows someone who is suffering, they are able to get them the right support. ‘Understanding that victims can love their partner at the same time as being abused by them is key; not appreciating this can be isolating and more dangerous,’ said Chand, explaining the patterns of comments she has seen in domestic violence victims.
Movements to prevent gender-based violence attempt to eliminate the idea that women are inferior to men. This does not just help those who have been victim of assault, but aims to challenge and change the ideas that create these issues in the first place. This prevents more cases of gender- based violence in the future through raising awareness and providing education from a young age.
This programme led to many improvements. The Deputy Mayor Cabinet Member for Community safety, Councillor Shiria Khatun said: ‘almost £1,000,000 funding was raised providing over 1800 young people with lessons and nearly 2000 professionals with training.’ This ensured that women and girls were given the best support possible in their meetings and seminars.
However, this year, the Director of Public Prosecution concluded that violent crimes against women in England and Wales have reached a record high. Despite attempting to tackle this issue, the plan was not a success that was hoped for as many women and girls still suffer from violence and it is still an on-going problem within the greater society.
This is why there is set to be a new Violence against women and girls strategy to be put into place for the next three years. The new strategy was confirmed on October 4 and is waiting to obtain approval by the council in November.
The new plan continues on from the 2013 strategy, but the 2016 strategy, ‘includes a renewed focus on victims experiencing multiple disadvantages, no recourse to public funds and puts emphasis on perpetrator accountability,’ said Councillor Khatun. By increasing the focus on more serious cases, this strategy insures that any women and girl living in any situation can be helped and protected.
Although there is an increase in violence overall, the old strategy still provided women and girls with the confidence they needed to stand up against violence, with an increase in police reporting across all strands of abuse and a network of over 500 participants. The results of the 2013 strategy showed that a stronger community for women and girls was being built, despite the overall statistics stating that violence has increased. The new strategy will continue the same practices as the old one but with a few improvements.
The strategy is being aided by Victim Support. ‘Victims receive a free and confidential service to help them deal with the effects of domestic abuse, this includes help with managing risk, reporting to the police and emotional support,’ said Senior Service Delivery Manager, Maddi Joshi. ‘As a result, one of our service users has begun to rebuild her life.’
There are going to be regular campaigns to raise awareness of this issues such as the ’16 Days of Activism’ international campaign which originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute and is to be held from November 25-December 10 to end gender-based violence. In addition, the ‘Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation Day’ on February 6 aims to eliminate female genital mutilation by 2030 completely.
‘The new strategy develops the “Whole School” approach programme across the borough, with the aim of ensuring that all young women and girls receive education on gender equality and human rights,’ said Councillor Khatun.