On Saturday the 8th of March 2014 it was International Women’s Day. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, however it wasn’t recognised by the United Nations until in 1975. As of 1996 the United Nations have declared annual themes which have ranged from ‘Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future’[i] and ‘Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities’ (International Women’s Day), to ‘Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty’ (International Women’s Day) and ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women’ (International Women’s Day). This year’s annual theme was ‘Inspiring Change’, which aims to encourage women’s advancement across the globe. ‘It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change’ (International Women’s Day).
Coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day, Clare’s Law was rolled out across England and Wales. Some of you may remember my blog post on Clare’s Law on the 26th of November last year, which contained information as to the intended effect of Clare’s Law and the case upon which it was based, that of Clare Wood. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to read the post, Clare Wood was a thirty six year old woman who was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend just 72 hours after he was released from police custody. Clare was unaware of her ex-boyfriend’s history of domestic abuse against women, which her father argues was a major contributing factor to her death. Clare’s father argued that had Clare known of her ex-partner’s history for violence she may not have begun dating him, let alone stayed with him. Clare’s father began a campaign for a law whereby individuals could access information regarding their partner’s history for domestic abuse or acts of violence.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, which is designed to allow disclosure of an individual’s history of violence, has now been rolled out across England and Wales. This follows a fourteen month pilot scheme. Further to this Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) have also been introduced which allow the police and the magistrates court to offer ‘protection for the victim in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident. Under DVPOs, the perpetrator can be prevented from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim a level of breathing space to consider their options, with the help of a support agency. This provides the victim with immediate protection. If appropriate, the process can be run in tandem with criminal proceedings.’[ii]
Clare Wood’s father, Michael Brown, stated that he was delighted with the news but he ‘must admit it’s tinged with a bit of emotion and a bit of sadness but we have got what we were fighting for – to bring protection into the country for half the population’[iii] . ‘On average two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner’[iv], furthermore ‘one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute’ (Women’s Aid). In addition, ‘one in six men’ (Women’s Aid) are victims of domestic violence. These statistics are skewed by the fact that numerous acts of domestic violence go unreported and that emotional abuse is often not regarded as a crime and is, therefore, not included.
Home Secretary Theresa May, a supporter of the scheme, stated that she is ‘determined to see a society where violence against women and girls is not tolerated, where people speak out, and where no woman or girl has to suffer domestic abuse’[v]. However, there are a few people who are not sure what the law will actually achieve and whether Theresa May’s aims will be realised. Jane Keeper from Refuge, a domestic violence charity, states that ‘most perpetrators of domestic violence are never known to police, social care or the other agencies – so usually if a woman asks the police the likeliest thing, even if he is a perpetrator, is they are not going to know anything. The real problem is women we are working with right this minute, every day, experience really shocking failures on the part of the police and other state agencies’ (BBC News).
Whether or not the scheme will have the required effect of drastically reducing domestic violence against both women and men is yet to be seen. However, for it to have any effect it has to be used and the information that is given needs acting upon. Mr Brown, told BBC News ‘it’s there to be used. Get it used, ask! If you are in a domestic violence situation or you think you could be seek advice and get out of there, because the ultimate is 120 women a year have lost their lives, mostly at a young age’ (BBC News).
[i] International Women’s Day, ‘International Women’s Day 2014 Theme: INSPIRING CHANGE’, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.asp#.Ux2Ju4WHhwg
[ii] Gov.UK, ‘Domestic Violence Protection Orders and Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/domestic-violence-protection-orders-and-domestic-violence-disclosure-scheme
[iii] BBC News, “Clare’s Law’ introduced to tackle domestic violence’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26488011
[iv] Women’s aid, Topic: Statistics, http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic_violence_topic.asp?section=0001000100220036
[v] The Guardian, Clare’s Law letting women know if partner has abusive past rolled out, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/08/clares-law-partners-abusive-past