The world observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov.25. But without adopting strict laws at government levels to curb on-the-rise violence against women, the global goal to protect women will remain a dream. One in three women in the world experiences assault and violence in her lifetime, UN statistics reveal.
One in eight emergency phone calls made to the police relate to serious domestic violence incidents, new figures show today. In some areas, as many as one in five serious 999 calls are connected to domestic abuse, a survey of police forces has revealed.
The statistics show the chilling levels of domestic violence that women in Britain continue to face. Experts say these represent the tip of the iceberg, since many are never reported. A quarter of women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, and every week two women are killed by a current or former partner. Three women a week kill themselves as a result of domestic abuse — and another 30 try to.
The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating 11 cases around the country where serious failings are alleged in the police response to domestic violence.
The domestic violence charity Refuge — which The IoS is supporting for this year’s Christmas appeal — is working to prevent more women from adding to these grim statistics.
Sandra Horley, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We hold ourselves up as the pinnacle of the developed world and yet, in Britain today, thousands of women and children are brutalised and terrorised in their own homes. And services to support them are vanishing.”
The figures for emergency calls, published on Sunday by Labour to highlight International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, cover “grade 1” incident 999 calls — those that require an emergency response — that forces in England and Wales responded to between April 2010 and August 2012. Of 20 forces that responded, an average of 12.5 per cent of these calls were related to domestic violence.
The highest rates were recorded in Merseyside, with 21 per cent, Lancashire and West Mercia, both with 18 per cent, and South Yorkshire and Humberside, both on 16 per cent.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, an estimated 1.2 million women experience domestic abuse every year, a figure that includes verbal as well as physical abuse. It was estimated that last year, about 392,000 of these incidents were violent, a figure 35 per cent higher than in 2010.
Every year, IPCC investigations show forces making the same mistakes, repeating failings in the most basic police duties. Amerdeep Somal, the IPCC’s commissioner with lead responsibility for gender abuse and domestic violence, said: “Sadly, I have seen through my work that [police] protection is not always provided.
It is a great scar on our collective conscience when a woman’s fears are not taken seriously and she is not given the protection that she deserves.
“If we are to see any fall in domestic violence deaths, year on year, it is crucial that the police and other agencies take domestic violence seriously — by listening to the concerns of the victims and taking appropriate, timely action. It is not enough that police officers should simply take a report and then file it, leaving a woman to her often inevitable fate.”
Professor Carol Hedderman, a criminologist at the University of Leicester, said: “When the police respond, they respond per incident. It’s like they’ve got collective Alzheimer’s and they have no institutional memory.”
Detective Superintendent Tim Keelan, from Merseyside Police’s Public Protection Unit, said that the police were trying to make things better. He said: “Domestic abuse is a terrible and damaging crime and one that the police and other agencies out there are keen to reduce as much as possible.”
Professor Sylvia Walby, a sociologist specialising in gender-based violence at Lancaster University, was surprised by the apparent rise in reported domestic violence. She said: “More or less every year for the last 20 years there was a small but steady decline [in the number of people reporting domestic violence], but last year that seemed to stop. We have a project now to try to find out why.”
If the rise is more than a statistical anomaly, then the recession, as well as cuts to services that could help keep women safe, may hold possible explanations. Many of the recent local government cuts fell on relatively new services put in place to protect women and children.
A recent Freedom of Information request found that councils in England and Wales cut annual spending on services aimed at helping vulnerable women — such as refuges — by an average of £44,914 each last year. In London alone, the budget for refuges and domestic violence services has been slashed by £1.9m.
They feel the threat even at homeBy Amie Ferris-Rotman
Muzhgan Masoomi’s attacker stabbed her 14 times with a thick blade used to slaughter animals, tearing wide gashes in her flesh before leaving the government worker for dead on the outskirts of the Afghan capital.
With a severe limp and no control over her bladder — caused by the blade scraping her spinal cord — the 22-year-old can no longer work at the Ministry of Public Works, where she was a financial assistant before the assault.
Women who pursue careers in Afghanistan often face opposition in a society where often they are ostracised — or worse, brutalised — for mixing with men other than husbands or relatives.
Despite commitments to better the rights of women 11 years into the Nato-led war, some say the authorities need to do more to prevent violence against women who work, particularly in government roles.
There are now fears that as the 2014 deadline looms for most foreign troops to leave, opportunities for women in the public sphere could shrink as confidence weakens in the face of continuing violence.
“I have no enemies, no links to gangs, and look what has happened to me. The situation for women in this country is getting worse day by day,” Masoomi said in her brightly lit home, a few minutes’ walk from where she was stabbed.
Shaking her long black ponytail, Masoomi said of her assailant: “He didn’t like women working out of the house.” He threatened her with menacing phone calls and text messages in the months leading up to the attack. Her parents said the attacker, a relative who worked as a policeman, was now behind bars over the stabbing.
The security concerns of male government workers are taken more seriously than those of women, said Colonel Sayed Omar Saboor, deputy director for gender and human rights at the Interior Ministry.
“Women who work are much bigger targets than men and the government needs to acknowledge this,” Saboor said.
How well female government workers are protected was called into question in July when a suicide bomber targeted and killed Hanifa Safi, regional head of women’s affairs in eastern Laghman province.
Authorities ignored repeated requests for protection, her family said afterwards. Laghman officials declined to comment.
“She was so worried about her future. The only time someone in the police even addressed the issue of her security was once the Taliban had killed her,” said her son, Mohammad Tabriz Safi, 30.
Officially the government must provide security — usually two bodyguards — for ministers, members of parliament and tribal elders, said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.
United they can
A group of 25 organisations came together in New Delhi, India, on Saturday to launch a global campaign aimed at stopping violence against women. The One Billion Rising campaign aims to catalyse communities, groups and individuals to raise their voices and take action.
The launch at Jamia Millia Islamia is a lead-up to Feb.14, 2013, where a billion people will rise for the campaign across the globe.
“We are not just battling with silence but with indifference bordering on apathy. Let the campaign resonate in those very spaces which matter,” said Syeda Hameed, member, Planning Commission.
Women’s rights activist Kamla Bhasin said that the rising violence against women was not about statistics but how long could it be tolerated?
“Today is a day dedicated to making a commitment to zero tolerance against violence against women by making governments accountable and society responsive for ending it,” she added.
In 2011, the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) indicated that incidents of rape increased by 873 per cent between 1953 and 2011 at a rate three times faster than all cognisable crimes put together, said a statement issued by the groups.
Human rights activist Vrinda Grover brought to the fore the violence perpetrated by security forces, extremists, castiest forces and neo-capitalists.
According to the United Nations, one in three women in the world experiences assault and violence in their lifetime.
Indo-Asian News Service
Ban seeks people’s supportBy Neil A. Alcober
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged governments worldwide to challenge the culture of discrimination that allows violence against women.
“On this International Day, I call on all governments to make good on their pledges to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world, and I urge all people to support this important goal,” Ban said in his message, as the whole world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov.25. Ban stressed that millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes as appalling violations of their human rights.
“From battlefield to home, on the streets, at school, in the workplace or in their community, up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their life,” the UN chief said.
Just because of a culture of impunity, most of the perpetrators go unpunished as women and young girls are often afraid to speak out, Ban said.
“We must fight the sense of fear and shame that punishes victims who have already endured crime and now face stigma. It is the perpetrators who should feel disgraced, not their victims,” the UN chief added.