Themes of Programme Action:
Violence Against Women and Girls
The ending violence against women and girls strategy: 2016 to 2020 provides an overview of the wide range of actions the government is taking over a period of four years to end violence against women and girls. It was launched on 8 March 2016. In March 2019 a refreshed strategy was published to re-affirm commitments to tackling violence against women and children. The refreshed strategy sets out additional actions to strengthen our response through to 2020. gov.uk/government/publications/strategy-to-end-violence-against-women-and-girls-2016-to-2020 UKPAC intends to encourage programme action in the Specialist Domestic Violence Courts in the UK.
FGM (Female Genital Mutilation)
The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) takes place February 6th. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985. Laws passed then made it an offence to carry out FGM, but this legislation had to be updated for the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. With increasing numbers of girls being taken abroad to be cut, it became apparent that more needed to be done. The spike in cases that occurred around the summer holidays has come to be known as ‘cutting season’. The updated laws made it an offence to take a girl abroad to undergo FGM, for a UK national or resident to carry out the procedure abroad or help someone not a UK national to carry out the procedure abroad. The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison. Laws are in place to stop FGM, but legislation is only part of the solution. To make real change and end ‘cutting season’ we also have to work together to protect girls who are in danger.
How can you help stop FGM and ‘Cutting Season’? Here are three things you can do to help bring ‘cutting season’ and FGM to an end.
- Raise Awareness Although more people are aware of FGM the majority are not aware of ‘cutting season’ and just how many girls are at risk. An important step in the fight to stop FGM is simply raising awareness of the problem. You can do this by sharing this article on Facebookand Twitter and adding your voice to the conversation using #EndFGM.
- Community Outreach Groups that practise FGM do so for a complex set of reasons and the procedure has existed for many generations. Just shouting that it’s wrong isn’t going to change their minds. We need to reach out to and work in partnership with resident communities in the UK if we want to stop FGM. The Government has been issuing grants to help, as part of their anti-FGM initiative. If you live in an area where this is happening see if you can volunteer to help. Even if you don’t it’s worth finding out how services and individuals can engage with communities. Voicing concerns is important, but it’s practical action that will have the most effect.
- Stay Vigilant Girls who might be taken abroad for ‘cutting season’ will be young, possibly not fully aware of why they are going, and if they are they may not feel able to speak out. It’s important to watch for warning signs if you know anyone who you believe is at risk. Potential warning signs could be:
- A planned summer trip to a country known to practise FGM.
- A girl may talk about visiting relatives for a special ceremony or event.
- A holiday that includes additional time away before, or at the end of, the summer holidays, encroaching on school time.
If you suspect someone is in danger you can contact the NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550. The line is free to call, anonymous and open 24/7. You should also call if you believe a girl has already undergone FGM. ‘Cutting season’ is a threat to potentially thousands of girls in the UK.
Reducing Women’s Imprisonment
By working with the Prison Reform Trust to help women caught up in the criminal justice system. The Transforming Lives document has a single aim: fewer women sent to prison across the UK. To achieve this we seek systems change that will:
- improve/strengthen the governance of women’s justice
- promote problem solving justice – especially for women whose offending is linked to abuse, trauma and coercive relationships
- strengthen pathways into mental health and social care
- promote non-custodial options and outcomes for mothers of dependent children
- reduce the use of custodial remand
- reduce the number and proportion of BAME and foreign national women in prison
- end prosecution of trafficked women
- strengthen multi-agency collaboration in local areas with greater use of early intervention and community orders for women.
- give a voice to women with direct experiences of the criminal justice system
- re-balance expenditure away from prisons and in favour of community-based women’s support services This is a tall order for an organisation with no legislative power, but it is amazing how far we have come since this document was published. The Ministry of Justice Female Offender Strategy was published on 28 June 2018 and we like to think that our lobbying contributed to this document supporting most of these objectives and committing to reducing women’s imprisonment and recognising women’s needs and vulnerabilities within the criminal justice system. However, there is a big BUT – not enough funding and no timetable to drive it. We need to pressure government to adequately fund women’s support services and to influence the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in the spring. If we all lobby, we are more likely to effect change.
Modern Day Slavery
This covers a range of exploitation including; human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labour, debt bondage, domestic servitude, criminal activities, child labour, child sexual exploitation (CSE) and forced and early marriage: stopthetraffik.org/about-human-trafficking/the-scale-of-human-trafficking.