Earlier this week, the Domestic Abuse Bill returned to Parliament, falling in the same week as International Women’s Day (8 March). The reintroduction of this Bill is hugely meaningful to the 2.4 million domestic abuse survivors in the UK.
On top of this figure, there are those who have not reported their abuse and the thousands of children witnessing domestic abuse at home.
At the end of last year when prorogation and Brexit negotiations pushed the Domestic Abuse Bill onto the back burner, the government attempted to make up for this delay in life-saving legislation with money.
Of course, it is nothing but positive that the government has pledged £16.6 million to 75 domestic refuge services across the country. But it’s frustrating to constantly see cash being put into mitigating the effects of a problem that could and should be tackled at its root.
There will always be a place for domestic refuge services and they must be well funded, but how can we stop people in Britain finding themselves in need of one?
We know that we need to think outside the box. The Green Party is proposing the trialling of a Universal Basic Income, designed to lift everybody out of poverty and end economic reliance on the head of a household or sole-earner, which for many is a barrier to leaving an abusive partner.
We also need to see police services across England and Wales treat gender-based harassment and assault as what it is – a hate crime. This is why I’ve campaigned for years to make misogyny a hate crime. Whilst no one is immune from being a victim of a perpetrator of domestic violence, for too long women have not been empowered to report acts of aggression and misogyny from men, as we’re told not to worry about it. That it’s just “banter”, or boys being boys.
When we empower women through the legal system to report unwanted advances, street harassment and groping (just to name a few examples), we ensure that no one has to wait until they are physically abused to go to the police. And men learn that any and every act of sexism is unacceptable.
We will only manage to strengthen our communities when we address those who often fall through the cracks of the system. This often includes the children of domestic abuse survivors, migrants and BAME survivors, transgender people and victims of LGBTQIA+ domestic abuse who cannot safely come out.
Through better and broader LGBTQIA+ education in schools, which parents cannot opt their children out of, we want to create a society where people in same-sex relationships can safely come out and tell someone if they are being abused by a partner.
We want to make life easier for transgender men and women. Everybody in Britain should be able to access the healthcare they deserve and live without constant fear of harassment and abuse. This International Women’s Day, we need to see cisgender, transgender and genderqueer women working together to tackle the shared problems and threats we all face.
No matter how many cases there are of domestic abuse, no child sets out to be a domestic abuser when they grow up. Only through tackling poverty, improving education, and making homes and families places where equality is encouraged and thrives can we begin to stamp out abuse and make life better for all of us.