Southern Region was alerted in December 2020 after a presentation from the Deputy Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs about the status of the Domestic Abuse Bill going through the House of Lords and then to the House of Commons.
We were advised to target and lobby the Baronesses in the Conservative party and any other contact we had with the Government about specific elements of the Bill which needed to be included; non-fatal strangulation and coercive control in particular. The nine clubs in the region did exactly this and started the Soroptimist lobbying rolling.
SI Winchester had good responses from Conservative and some labour Baronesses who were positively supporting these issues, in particular Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Baroness Burt of Solihull, Baroness Neville-Rolfe.
We then sent letters to our local MPs and shortly afterwards continued with letters regarding coercive control and migrant women with varying degrees of success. In particular the response from Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. We also lobbied the Secretary of State for Justice to cover all bases.
Later we heard that the House of Lords voted in favour of our proposals, though the amendments could still fail when the Bill returns to the House of Commons because of the majority in the Commons.
The hope was to secure support from even a small number of backbench Conservative MPs in order to encourage the Government to make a concession to us. The Government has also reopened their nationwide Call for Evidence to inform their next Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy. This Call for Evidence would like to hear the views of as many individuals as possible who have either lived experience of the issue, or expertise in working with victims and survivors and providing services. The survey closes at 11.45pm on 26 March 2021 and can be accessed here: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-against-women-and-girls-vawg-call-for-evidence
Subsequently we had a fascinating talk at our region meeting on 13 March from the campaign officer of Plan International, with whom we work closely as we have the same objectives . This coincided with the tragic events surrounding Sarah Everard but was particularly relevant under the circumstances.
Rubie Harrington presented the grassroots youth campaign #CrimeNotCompliment which was recently started by two sisters in a bid to make public sexual harassment a crime Crime not Compliment | Plan International UK (plan-uk.org).
Julie Blackwell said, ‘In view of recent events this was a very timely presentation and as Sorptimists we support the view to make our streets safer for women and girls. Part of that is also to educate men and boys into respecting women and girls and their space. We have written to our local MPs about this situation and asked local councils what they plan to do about the safety of the streets in their towns.’