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Will your MP vote to #ChangeHerStory?

On 16 December Eilidh Whiteford MP will hold a private member’s bill in Westminster to ratify the Istanbul Convention. The bill, if passed, could make a real difference towards preventing violence against women, protecting women experiencing violence and prosecuting perpetrators.

For the bill to be passed, at least 100 MPs need to turn up to Westminster on 16 December and vote for it. We want this to happen so we’ve put together some information about what the Istanbul Convention is, why it’s important and what you can do.  We strongly recommend you visit the Istanbul Convention website for more comprehensive information.

What is the Istanbul Convention and what will it do?

The Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive legal framework that exists, outlining minimum standards for a State’s response to violence against women and girls. It covers prevention, protection, prosecution and monitoring.

  • Some practical requirements of the Istanbul Convention
  • An adequate number of refuges, including specialist services.
  • Sufficient provision of rape crisis or sexual violence referral centres.
  • Psychological support for victims of violence.
  • Free 24/7 helplines for all forms of violence.
  • Education in schools on topics such as violence against women and girls, equality between men and women, the right to personal integrity, and healthy relationships.

You can find more information here.

Why do we need it?

Zero Tolerance has been working to challenge the root causes of violence against women for almost 25 years now.

  • Recent global prevalence figures indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • In 2014/15, 1,797 rapes and 104 attempted rapes were reported to the police in Scotland 
  • In the same period, 9,557 sexual offences were reported.
  • In 2015-16 there were 58,104 incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland.

Violence against women is a cause and consequence of gender inequality. This means that violence against women is committed and condoned by our society because women are not yet financially, socially, economically equal, they are not represented equally in culture, politics or in the workforce. And violence against women prevents women having equal status to men.

The Istanbul Convention - What happened and where are we now?

The UK signed the Convention in 2012, but has yet to ratify it.

The line - which is currently being recycled in various forms by the UK Government - states:
“Primary legislation will be needed to comply with the remaining extra-territorial jurisdiction provisions in Article 44 of the Convention before it can be ratified. The UK Government is liaising with the devolved administrations about ratification, including any further legislative steps necessary.”

It means that in theory there is one or two areas of law which need tidying up. However, this line has been used since September 2014 and it is time to move forward.

What’s happening now?

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has introduced a Private Member’s Bill which, if successful, would require the UK Government to make the Istanbul Convention law in the UK.

Other MPs – at least 100 of them - need to attend the debate about it and vote to support it. If this happens, it will pass to the next stage.

What can I do?

Remember – 16 December is a Friday – and most MPs will return to their local constituencies on Thursday evening. That’s why your support and pressure on your MP is so important. Normally at Zero Tolerance we focus our efforts on changing the law in Scotland but this law will be UK wide. So sisters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – we need your help too. Remember – your MP works for you! Make it clear to them that you want them to stay in London and vote on this bill on Friday.

Eilidh Whiteford has done a fantastic job rallying the SNP MPs to vote for this bill. And the IC Change campaign group and Scottish Women’s Aid have been working tirelessly, meeting with MPs in Westminster to get them to commit to this bill.

Find out who your MP is and write to them. IC change has even put together a template for you! 

Take a look at Scottish Women’s Aid @scotwomensaid and the IC Change @ICChange twitter accounts today and you’ll see all the MPs that have signed up. Share on social media with the hashtag #Changeherstory

For those of us fighting for gender equality, 2016 has thrown many challenges and stumbling blocks in our way. This vote is a chance to start to turn that around and to finish the year with a positive step towards a world free of violence against women.

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