Today's debate sends out a strong signal that it is time for zero tolerance of violence against women.

Nevertheless, strongly worded motions and tributes are not enough to stop the violence.

To make a lasting difference, we need to make fundamental changes to women's position in our society.

How can our young people—in particular, our young women—grow up freely and in safety unless we give them a proper sense of their own entitlement and rights?

We need to make explicit the obvious links that have been shown time and again to exist between domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault, human trafficking and commercial exploitation—all of which are included in the definition that is given by the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, as outlined by Gil Paterson.

Our culture increasingly normalises violence and pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable further and further until what would have been classified as extreme pornography seems to be normal in pop culture, TV shows and all-too-accessible internet pornography.

At last night's meeting on keeping women on the agenda, which was organised by Engender, hard evidence was given about women's place in our society and an urgent call was made for the Scottish Government to act.

Labour has long led on the issue and our important work in the area must continue and be developed, but the issue transcends party politics and is fundamental to our society.

The Government must follow up the warm words of the motion with guaranteed funding and action.

Although Scottish Women's Aid needs and wants funding for refuges, increasingly the question is not just about the lack of refuges but about the fact that we need refuges at all.

To quote Lily Greenan, who is in the public gallery along with other supporters of Scottish Women's Aid, violence against women is a symptom, not the problem in itself.

We need to tackle the problem head on.

A fundamental question for the minister is why funding to prevent violence against women is in the equalities budget rather than the justice budget.

Violence is a crime, and violence against women must be treated as such.

Domestic violence is estimated to account for about a quarter of all violent crime.

Last session, with the passing of the Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Act 2007, a small step was taken towards redressing the balance by criminalising the purchasers of sex for the first time.

It is a matter of regret that the Government did not mark the launch of the act with a great deal of publicity, to send the signal that violence against women is taken seriously however it manifests itself.

Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the UN, described violence against women as

"perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and ... perhaps the most pervasive."

He also described it as

"the most atrocious manifestation of the systemic discrimination and inequality women continue to face".

The Home Office estimates the cost of domestic violence at a staggering £23 billion a year.

The question is how much it will cost Scotland if the preventive funding is not guaranteed core funding.

Margaret Smith cited the figures for children who witness abuse at home and talked about the consequences of that.

As well as that, the resulting psychological harm cannot be overemphasised and needs to be addressed.

Knowing the interest that Adam Ingram takes in mental health, I stress the importance of mental health funding in that context.

Without intervention, there is the reality of a downward spiral of the abused and neglected continuing learned patterns of abuse and neglect.

Although, as has been said, the work with women themselves is crucial, it can be undone completely if the man or men involved do not change.

Women may be helped to leave an abusing partner, but that partner can go on to abuse other women if there is no intervention.

That is why Amnesty International's white ribbon campaign, which was set up last year, is important.

Violence against women will not stop unless men are part of the campaign to stop it.

I conclude by strongly urging the minister, the Government and all MSPs to support the women's coalition's statement of intent and its themes of prevention, provision and protection.

I call on all MSPs to sign up to and fully support the motion

 

Back to previous page

top