On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November), Amnesty International has said that the UK Home Secretary Theresa May must make firm commitments to tackling the problem.
Amnesty welcomed the Home Secretary's announcement of a new cross-government plan to combat violence against women in England. But they said that guarantees must be put in place to ensure the most vulnerable women are protected.
Along with other campaigners, Amnesty has long called for a new approach to dealing with high levels of violence against women and girls, including new policies that would help avoid violence occurring in the first place.
“It’s welcome news that the government is announcing this plan,” said Amnesty’s UK Director Kate Allen. But she added, “We need to see the real detail, especially on funding and whether it’s going to have proper political support right across government”.
She continued, “Will, for example, the government continue to support the vital project that protects women with insecure immigration status who are victims of violence?”
The current scheme provides up to forty days’ funding, access to a refuge and specialised support to some victims of violence who currently have no recourse to public funds.
It is currently being trialled until March, but Amnesty and several women’s organisations are pressing for this to be made permanent.
”It’s precisely these ‘marginal’ schemes that are the litmus test of whether a government is truly committed to tackling violence against women,” said Allen.
Women in the UK who are on spousal visas, international student visas and temporary work permits, generally have no recourse to public funds and prior to the trial scheme, none were able to access specialist services or gain entry to a refuge.
The pilot scheme currently only applies to spouses but, say campaigners, it has already proved successful in protecting women from violence and should be extended to all those affected by the loophole. Amnesty supporters are currently lobbying their MPs for this to happen.
Amnesty has calculated that hundreds of women have been left destitute or trapped in a cycle of violence because of the 'no recourse' rule.