Suffolk MPs urged to help tackle domestic abuse and vote to ratify the Istanbul Convention
PUBLISHED: 17:12 23 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:15 23 February 2017
Campaigners in Suffolk are urging MPs to back a ground-breaking European treaty that aims to eradicate domestic violence against women and girls.
Tomorrow the Istanbul Convention bill will go for its third and final reading in the House of Commons and it needs the support of 100 ministers in order to move on to the next stage.
It will then go before the House of Lords, and if it is passed it will legally require the UK Government to provide enough funding for refuges, support centres, helplines, education in schools on healthy relationships and training for professionals.
Helen Taylor, from Ipswich, is part of IC Change, a volunteer-led organisation pushing for ratification of the convention in Britain.
She said: “It’s about a culture change.
“At the minute resources like Rape Crisis live hand to mouth, trying to apply for little pots of money and not knowing where the next six months [of funding] is coming from.
“There are refuges closing and Rape Crisis centres closing and what happens when these places close is all the specialism and expertise is lost.”
Nationally, domestic abuse will affect one in four women in their lifetime; but in Suffolk, Ms Taylor said the crime impacted one in three.
Woodbridge supporter Gemma Thompson said she had tried to contact her MP, Therese Coffey, via email and Twitter about the topic, but had not received a response.
She said: “Domestic abuse is a huge issue for those that live in rural communities with the natural isolation aiding and abetting abusers so that victims find it so much harder to escape.”
Ms Coffey has been approached for a comment.
Both Dan Poulter, MP for central Suffolk and north Ipswich, and Waveney MP Peter Aldous, said they fully backed the treaty, but they were unable to make it to the vote tomorrow due to commitments in their constituencies.
Mr Aldous added: “Ratifying the convention will be an important landmark which we must reach as soon as possible.”
James Cartlidge, MP for south Suffolk, is campaigning in the Cambrian by-election today but he said he was planning to travel back to London, depending on the weather, and support the bill.
He added: “The Government has already signed the convention and I am pleased to say that many of the necessary measures to protect women and girls from violence are already in place in the UK.
“That said, I am keen to see all reasonable steps taken to bring domestic law fully in line with the convention.”
This week Harry Potter star and women’s rights activist Emma Watson wrote to MPs pressing them to attend Parliament tomorrow.
In her letter, Ms Watson said: “You have a unique opportunity to play a part in ending gender-based violence in our country.
“I assure you people all over the UK will be grateful to you if you do, because it affects everyone that comes into contact with it.”
The Istanbul Convention is the first legal framework focussed on preventing domestic violence, protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators.
It was opened for signature in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, and it has since been adopted by 21 other countries.
The UK Government signed a commitment to seeing it through four years ago, and in December 2016 135 MPs voted in favour of ratifying the treaty.
IC Change co-director Rebecca Bunce said: “This is not a time to play politics.
“Women are dying. Two women are murdered every week at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.
“This law offers a chance to help end violence against women: whether sexual assault, domestic violence, so-called honour based violence, forced marriage or FGM.”