Britain’s Faith Leaders Launch UK-Wide Call to Help Prevent Violence Against Women
Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu leaders met at the House of Lords yesterday, 5 December, to launch a public call for the UK Government to make the Istanbul Convention on violence against women law in the UK.
As part of their statement, faith leaders have also called on MPs to support a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) which would require the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
The IC Change #ChangeHerstory campaign are asking MPs to attend the debate and vote in its favour during the bill’s second reading on 16 December. 100 MPs must vote to ensure the bill passes to the next stage. If the bill is successful, it would result in the strongest legal frameworks for the protection of women and girls in British political history.
By ratifying the Istanbul Convention, the Government would by law commit themselves to provide women’s services like shelters, rape crisis centres, and 24/7 helplines and stronger prosecution services. In addition essential prevention measures would be provided such as education in schools and training for professionals – to stop violence from happening in the first place. The convention covers different forms of violence, including domestic abuse, rape, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, stalking, forced marriage, and ‘honour’ based abuse.
David Cameron signed a commitment to the Convention over four years ago, but the Government have so far failed to honour their promise to make it law.
This Bill has cross party support and if it becomes law would see the UK take a proud commitment to ending gender based violence and taking the next steps in securing a safe future for women and girls.
This legislation is needed because on average, two women in England and Wales are killed every week by a current or former male partner.
The Bill is also backed by a wide range of organisations including Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis, Southall Black Sisters, the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, Restored, and the Muslim Women’s Network UK.
The event was organised by IC Change, Restored and Faith Action and hosted by Lord McColl at the House of Lords. It follows on from faith leaders’ declaration against domestic abuse launched in 2015.
Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, says: ‘Violence against women and girls take many forms and is widespread in the UK. It is an injustice and a violation against the dignity of human beings made in the image of God that the Church must speak out on. The Istanbul Convention provides a strong, practical framework to help us tackle the issue comprehensively in a way that has never been done before.
I urge the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention without delay and support the Private Member’s Bill’
Bishop of Guildford, Right Revd Andrew Watson says: ‘Violence is part of everyday reality for huge number of women around the world, including an alarming number here in the UK. I am delighted to hear of the PMB encouraging the British Parliament to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, and am sure that the Faith Leaders’ reception will prove both educational and inspirational as together we seek to tackle this major global challenge’.
Muhammed Al-Hasan from Imams Against Domestic Abuse, a speaker at the House of Lords reception says: ‘As faith leaders it is our duty to combat the menace of domestic abuse in our society. We must show unity to call our leaders to do whatever it takes to protect the most vulnerable people in the society.’
Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, Reform Judaism, a speaker at the House of Lords reception says: ‘We tend to think of violence against women as someone else’s problem. Other countries, other cultures, other classes. But it is found everywhere and everyone will know of someone who has experienced violence or abuse. We urgently need a stronger framework in which to combat such evils, to make people more aware, to enable us to combat it, to prosecute the perpetrators and prevent its recurrence – which is what the Istanbul Convention provides’.
Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, Laura Janner-Klauser says: ‘The Istanbul Convention is a powerful set of proposals that signify commitment to tackling violence against women. Jewish teaching forbids harming other people physically or mentally, it forbids emotionally belittling others and even, like the Convention, economic abuse against women. This IC Change event represents a timely opportunity to push for ratification of this Convention, and I strongly urge the Government to do so.’
Jasvir Singh, City Sikhs, says: ‘Gender-based violence is disgusting and despicable in anyone’s eyes, regardless of one’s faith or background. By ratifying the Istanbul Convention, the British Government will be enshrining in law statutory rights which will protect women and girls against such acts. It will be a step closer to getting rid of gender-based violence and it can’t come a moment too soon.’
Robyn Boosey, Co-director, IC Change says: ‘The Istanbul Convention recognises that violence against women and girls in the UK is connected and provides a powerful, practical instrument to tackle it. We are delighted that faith leaders have launched this public call for the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention and for MPs to support the Second Reading of the Istanbul Convention bill on 16 December. We urge the Government to listen to what voices from communities across the UK are calling for, what women across the UK are calling for, and ratify the Istanbul Convention – without further delay.’