November 25, 2015
by Alex Neil
Today marks the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
The international campaign will run until December 10th – International Human Rights Day – fitting, given that violence against women and girls is one of the world’s most grievous abuses of human rights.
As Social Justice Secretary, I am committed to working with my Cabinet colleagues, with the public sector and third sector to ensure everyone in Scotland feels equally safe. I am proud that, throughout Scotland, many dedicated organisations will host events to promote available services and raise awareness of the nature and prevalence of violence against women.
It is a tragic fact that, today, women and girls in Scotland and across the world are at risk of and experiencing violence and abuse – precisely because they are women and girls. In Scotland, gender based violence continues to disproportionately affect women and girls. 80% of survivors of domestic abuse are female, as are 95% of rape victims. Sexual abuse and harassment continues to be an issue. Women and girls from some communities are at risk or, or have experienced, the brutality of female genital mutilation or the misery of forced marriage.
Recent publications – from Police Scotland’s domestic abuse statistics to the Scottish Social Attitudes module on public attitudes which is published today – provide a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go in tackling this issue. There have been successful initiatives and an undoubted shift in attitudes, but much remains to be done.
It is clear that there are no quick fixes to this deep-rooted problem. It requires significant economic, social and cultural change over the long term, that calls for the sustained commitment not just of a wide range of partners but of individuals and communities too. This was highlighted yesterday in Parliament during the debate on violence against women and the 16 days of action. It is clear there is significant cross party support for further progress to be made.
Funding is to tackle this issue is at record levels – this year alone, we are investing £11.8m from the Equality Budget to support a range of projects and initiative along with an additional £20m (over 2015-18) from the Justice portfolio. This funding is supporting organisations like Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and Zero Tolerance who continue to do fantastic work in supporting survivors of violence and abuse, and in driving approaches to prevention and early intervention.
These are significant developments, and a sign of our strong and enduring commitment to this agenda. However, it is through the effective implementation of Equally Safe that real change will be delivered in the long term. Equally Safe states that VaWG is underpinned by gender inequality, and in order to prevent and eradicate it from society we must focus our efforts on delivering greater gender equality, tackling perpetrators, and intervening early and effectively to prevent violence.
The fact our approach is underpinned by a gender analysis which has drawn favourable comment internationally, with Scotland being recognised as progressive in this area. We are taking steps to achieve this equality – ending segregation in employment, getting more women into senior positions, increasing opportunities for political representation, and eliminating the gender pay gap.
Positive outcomes in these areas will make a significant contribution to Equally Safe’s objectives around Primary Prevention, which seeks to address the underlying factors that drive gender based violence.
Earlier this month, along with Cllr Harry McGuigan (Spokesperson for Community Safety at CoSLA) I co-chaired the first meeting of the Violence Against Women and Girls Joint Strategic Board, which comprises senior leaders from 16 different organisations across government, local authority, police, health and the third sector. This is an important step forward – only by working together, sharing information and ensuring this issue is at the top of everyone’s agenda, can we create real change and ultimately eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls.
The next 16 days will rightly see this issue being put in the spotlight and I want to commend and thank all those organisations who dedicate their time to helping support survivors of violence and abuse and who work hard in preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. I hope that we can all continue to work together to ensure that women and girls in Scotland are free from violence, and the attitudes that help to perpetuate it.
Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights