As I settled in to my Sunday paper, I read about the ongoing trial regarding the Ipswich murders I found myself thinking about the stories that had really stuck in my mind that week – alleged forced marriages and an alleged honour killing in Cumbria, grooming of young and vulnerable girls for prostitution in Yorkshire, a discussion on trafficking in London and Cardiff – my list was beginning to seem like a glossary on the forms of violence against women.
There seems to be an ever-increasing litany of abuses – stalking, harassment, female genital mutilation, trafficking, forced marriages, honour killings, domestic violence, and rape - that can be committed against women and girls. Are things getting worse for us or are they the same they’ve always been but we are now naming the offences and taking a stand – declaring them to be unacceptable?
There is much discussion about the causes of violence against women and whether it is on the up. Is it the way women are portrayed in the media, easy access to increasingly violent forms of pornography, or is it rooted in our changing behaviours that have accompanied emancipation? Whilst I think the “why’s” need to be explored what I would really like to see is some more “how’s” particularly the how to address the issue – we do not need to think about the “when’s” - the time is obviously now. How many more instances of gender based violence do we need to see splashed across our papers before our political representatives sit up and do something?
The Making the Grade report was first published in 2005 and scored the Government on its performance to tackle violence against women – a shocking 1 out of 10. In 2006 the score went up to 2.28 out of 10. An improvement yes, but hardly reassuring when you are walking home in the dark.
The WI is concerned about violence against women and last October decided to start a new campaign on the issue to encourage the government to take action that will make a real difference to all our lives. I hope that any women (or indeed men) will take this issue personally and campaign with us - for more information visit www.thewi.org.uk/campaigns