Leena Sarah Farhat, Diversity officer for the Welsh Liberal Democrats
This week saw the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It is an issue which has and continues to impact thousands of women across Wales.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats recognize the urgent need to prevent violence against women and girls and abuse, and support survivors.
Violence against women is a broad term but is defined by the United Nations and others as acts of violence which are suffered disproportionally by women that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Violence against women can be understood to encompass but not be limited to physical, sexual and psychological violence:
- occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
- occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
- perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
Violence against women is a crime and that must be reflected in all legal systems in Europe. It is only by working together and acknowledging the problem that we can put a stop to this category of violence.
Not all violence against women occurs within a context of traditional power relations, perpetrators’ behaviour stems from a sense of entitlement supported by sexist, racist, disablist, homophobic and other discriminatory attitudes, behaviours and systems that maintain and reproduce inequality.
We at the Welsh Liberal Democrats are taking a multidimensional approach to this issue.
We want to make sure that we ratify and bring into law the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention. We believe it is by working this our European community that we can find the best solutions to this important issue.
We would pass a law for a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes its effects on children. This form of violence and abuse are predominantly experienced by women and girls, and perpetrated by men, however, men and boys can also be victims and women can also be perpetrators. In 2014/15 domestic abuse cases, 92.4% of defendants were male and, where recorded, 84% of the victims were female.
We also think that it is imperative that we expand the number of refugees and rape crisis centres to meet demand. Women and girls find a lot of hope and help in these types of centers, with people who understand their plight.
We would also ensure sustainable grant-funding for specialist independent support services. I have had the privilege of meeting a few organizations such as Welsh Women’s Aid / Cymorth i Ferched Cymru, a well-established group who work across Wales and smaller charities such as Women Survivors Support Project, a grow of incredibly strong women working out of Carmarthen across West Wales. Both have helped me on my personal journey surrounding my own experiences.
We need to make sure that we give local authorities the duty and funding to provide accommodation and support for survivors of abuse. It is known that local authorities are under a lot of pressure as it is but it is undeniable that violence against women and girls has knock-on effects that would in the long run, help rebuild our fractured communities.
We also need to establish a national rape crisis helpline. I cannot begin to explain the fear, the shame and loneliness that comes with most of these incidences and a simple solution such as a helpline can be the defining factor, whether you live in a busy town and you think that no one will listen, or the countryside where it is easy to find yourself isolated and alone.
Finally, we want to ensure access to special measures for survivors in all courts and preventing direct cross-examination of survivors by their abusers. This sounds obvious but it is currently not the case. Many women stand up for themselves, only to encounter their abuser playing a part in the justice system. This cannot be right, safe or even legal.
Women and girls are entitled to the best protection that we have to offer. This is is one found across Wales from our rural communities to our cities, from homes to our workplaces and educational institutions.
As a Welsh woman, I demand better for our women and girls. I will be fighting for that through my party but this is beyond a cross-party issue, it is a Welsh issue. My own experiences have shaped me as a person and I am recovering so that I can stand up for others more vulnerable than me.
As a Liberal that is my duty. I urge others to do the same.