Call for stronger laws to protect apostates from abuse

By agency reporter
April 26, 2019

Humanists UK and Faith to Faithless have submitted written evidence to the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, stating that proposed reforms to the law to protect victims of domestic abuse do not go far enough.

The groups raised two key concerns with the Domestic Abuse Bill which has been drafted by the UK Government and is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny before being introduced to Parliament.

The first of these concerns is that the definition of a perpetrator as someone who is ‘personally connected’ to the victims should be expanded to include community members who assert substantial control and influence over family life. This would protect victims of religiously-based and honour-based abuse where such abuses are often initiated or conducted outside of the immediate family by non-relational community and congregation members.

Secondly, the Bill does not extend to Northern Ireland, contrary to its initial envisioning, leaving victims of abuse in one part of the the UK arbitrarily with less protection. This omission is significant as the Bill’s failure to extend these protections, as well as address known violations of the UN Convention on Discrimination Against Women with respect to legal access to abortion in Northern Ireland, means that the UK is unable to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women – one of the central purposes of the Bill.

Both of these concerns, were recently raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in a letter to the Government.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: ‘"here is no reason why the victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland should be left with less protection than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. Furthermore, we know that much domestic abuse against apostates or on the basis of “honour” is perpetrated not by immediate family members but by other influential community members, like religious leaders – but these individuals are not covered by the Bill either. We will continue to campaign for these gaps in the proposed Domestic Abuse Bill to be filled before the Bill is placed before Parliament."

* Faith to Faithless

* Humanists UK


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