Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women: position statement

Our position statement on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

17. Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women ( CEDAW) does not explicitly mention violence against women and girls but General Recommendations 12 and 19 clarify that the Convention includes violence against women and makes detailed recommendations to States parties [1] .

The Scottish Government adopts a gendered analysis of violence against women and has undertaken a significant amount of work to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls. The following section outlines some of the work undertaken by the Scottish Government to prevent and eradicate gender based violence; to improve services for victims and to improve the justice response.

17.1 Equally Safe, Scotland's strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls

The Equally Safe strategy is the Scottish Government and COSLA's joint strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls ( VaWG), it was first published in June 2014, with an updated version published in March 2016. The strategy was developed in consultation with a wide range of statutory and third sector partners and was also informed by feedback from women who use services. The Equally Safe Delivery Plan was published on 24 November 2017.

To implement Equally Safe the Scottish Government is working with stakeholders to prevent violence from occurring in the first place, build the capability and capacity of mainstream and specialist services to support survivors and those at risk, and strengthen the Justice response to victims and perpetrators. Equally Safe states that VaWG in any form has no place in Scotland; we believe it to impact adversely on health and wellbeing, limit freedom of potential and violates human rights. 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 Equally Safe strategy therefore complements and contributes to wider efforts to achieve gender equality.

The aim of Equally Safe is to create a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and respected, and where women and girls live free from such abuse – and the attitudes that help perpetuate it.

Four priorities areas are identified to contribute to the overarching aim of the strategy:

  • Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls
  • Women and girls thrive as equal citizens: socially, culturally, economically and politically
  • Interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people
  • Men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response

The Equally Safe strategy sets out a shared understanding of the causes, risk factors and scale of the problem. It highlights the need to prioritise prevention, and it sets out how we will develop the performance framework which allows us to know whether we are realising our ambitions. The Scottish Government is committed to working collaboratively with partners and achieve change by making best use of available resources and with a clear governance framework underpinning delivery. Equally Safe established a Violence against Women and Girls Joint Strategic Board which is co-chaired by the Scottish Government and CoSLA and comprises senior leaders from across the public sector, third sector and academia. It provides oversight and direction of the implementation of Equally Safe, holding key partners to account for delivery.

Equally Safe also established three thematic workstreams (focused on Primary Prevention, Capability and Capacity, and Justice) and a further workstream focused on accountability. The members of the different workstream groups are drawn from a wide range of partners with a wealth of experience and informed by the experience of women, girls, children and young people who have been subject to violence or abuse. Working groups have contributed to the development of a delivery plan for Equally Safe.

Actions taken forward since publication of Equally Safe include:

  • Strengthened partnership working including: meetings of the Equally Safe JSB; four workstreams themed around Primary Prevention, Capability and Capacity, Justice and Accountability were established and have contributed to proposals contained within the Delivery Plan; the establishment of a Children and Young People stakeholder reference group was established, to input to this Delivery Plan and inform our approach to implementation; and, with the support and input of the Improvement Service and CoSLA, guidance for Violence against Women Partnerships was published in August 2016.
  • Increased funding: £20 million from Justice budgets has been allocated towards tackling violence against women 2015-18; in June 2017, a further £11.8 million was announced by the Equalities Secretary to support efforts to tackle violence against women and provide support for victims, bringing the total investment from the Equality Budget to almost £30 million over 2017 to 2020 and in February 2017, the Scottish Government announced three year rolling funding for equality and violence against women organisations.
  • Legislative change including the passing of: the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015; the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016; the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 and Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018.
  • Improvement of services including: the continuation of significant levels of funding in front line services supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence; publication of guidance for local authorities on the commissioning of domestic abuse services by local authorities by CoSLA and Scottish Women's Aid; and the establishment of a Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for children and adults who have experienced rape and sexual assault, to strengthen the governance arrangements for services and improve the provision of appropriate services and facilities for victims who require a forensic examination.

17.2 The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 modernises the law on domestic and sexual abuse. This Act includes the introduction of a 'statutory domestic abuse aggravator' to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing offenders; it gives courts power to make non- harassment orders in cases where they cannot do so at present; requires judges to give juries specific directions when dealing with sexual offence cases to help improve access to justice for victims; extends Scottish courts extra-territorial jurisdiction over sexual offences committed against children to cover the other jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It has also created a specific offence of sharing private intimate images without consent (commonly known as 'revenge porn') with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment. Through the work of the Equally Safe Justice Expert Group, the Scottish Government is looking at both medium and longer term improvements that can be made to the justice system for all victims of this type of violence including domestic abuse victims and their children.

The Scottish Government undertook a publicity campaign to coincide with the commencement of the offence criminalising the non-consensual sharing of intimate images contained in The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016. The campaign aimed both to raise awareness of the new offence and to challenge 'victim blaming' attitudes.

17.3 The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 February and received Royal Assent on 9 March 2018.

This bill creates a specific offence of domestic abuse that will cover not just physical abuse but also other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that cannot easily be prosecuted using the existing criminal law. Significantly, the Bill reflects the fact that children are harmed by domestic abuse by providing for a statutory aggravation that the offender either directed behaviour at a child, involved a child in the commission of the abuse, or that a child saw, heard or was present during the abuse. When the new offence comes into force, it will be preceded by a public information campaign by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government has committed to provide additional funding specifically to train frontline officers and staff. This dedicated funding will enable Police Scotland to train officers and staff to identify the new offence.

Scottish Women's Aid will also receive Scottish Government funding to develop training to help communities better understand the new legislation.

17.4 Female Genital Mutilation ( FGM)

FGM has been unlawful in Scotland since 1985. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 re-enacted the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 and extended protection by making it a criminal offence to have FGM carried out either in Scotland or abroad by giving those offences extra-territorial powers. Amendments made by the Serious Crime Act 2015 closed a loophole in the 2005 Act to extend the reach of the extra-territorial offences to habitual (as well as permanent) UK residents.

The Scottish Government has been looking closely at the legislative provisions in the Serious Crime Act 2015 (England and Wales) (Part 5 71-75). Scottish Ministers and are considering next steps.

On 4 February 2016 the Scottish Government published a National Action Plan to prevent and eradicate FGM. The purpose of the National Action Plan is to foster an environment of prevention in Scotland and to improve the welfare and quality of life of FGM survivors, with a focus on the linked areas of prevention, protecting girls at risk of FGM; and provision of appropriate support and sensitive services for survivors of FGM. To support the action plan, over £271,620 has been invested (2017-18) and the Scottish Government will continue to invest a similar amount over the period 2017-20.

In November 2017 the Scottish Government published ' Responding to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) In Scotland - Multi Agency Guidance'. This guidance provides a framework within which agencies and practitioners can develop and agree processes for working collaboratively and individually to promote the safety and wellbeing of women and girls and supplements agencies and organisations own policies and procedures on FGM. It was developed with partners in the statutory and third sectors along with affected communities.

To date there have been no convictions in Scotland, nor in any other part of the UK, for FGM related offences. Every referral or child welfare concern that is brought to the police relating to concerns that girls have been at risk of having FGM performed on them has been fully investigated by Police Scotland, and no criminality has been found.

17.5 Child Sexual Exploitation

An updated National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation , published in March 2016, was developed with partners including local authorities, Police Scotland, health services and the third sector to focus on prevention, providing support to those at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation, bringing perpetrators to justice and reducing cultural and social barriers to preventing and tackling child sexual exploitation ( CSE). Actions have included developing a national definition of CSE; funding to third sector organisations to support victims and those identified as vulnerable; funding for organisations working with perpetrators; and CSE awareness-raising campaigns. The Scottish Government continues to work with the National Child Sexual Exploitation Group on the implementation of actions.

In 2015, Police Scotland launched a National Child Abuse Investigation Unit (NCAIU) to provide local policing teams with support for investigations into reports of complex child abuse and neglect, including child sexual exploitation and online child abuse.

17.6 Funding

In the face of significant austerity, equality funding has been held in Scotland at similar levels since 2012. The Scottish Government is investing significant levels of funding to tackle violence against women and girls including nearly £30 million over 2017/2020 from the equality budget to support a range of projects and initiatives to tackle VaWG. This includes direct provision for front line domestic abuse and sexual assault services, as well as funding for the National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline and the Rape Crisis Helpline. We have also invested an additional £20 million over 2015-18 from Justice budgets, which includes increased support for advocacy provision.

17.7 Legal Aid

Legal aid is available to victims of domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence seeking protection through civil actions, where they meet the statutory eligibility criteria. There is no residency test and no requirement to demonstrate that domestic abuse has taken place. In criminal cases, the state investigates offences and prosecutes alleged offenders. Victims of domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence have the status of 'complainer' and can access advice and assistance on the criminal process. In addition to the general availability of publicly-funded legal assistance, the Scottish Government has provided funding, through the Scottish Legal Aid Board, to support the Scottish Women's Rights Centre, which offers free legal information and advice to women who have experienced gender-based violence, including a national helpline. The Scottish Government has also made available publicly funded legal assistance for those seeking representation in recovery proceedings where sensitive records are sought, following the judgment in WF v Scottish Ministers [2016] CSOH 27.

17.8 Istanbul Convention

The Scottish Government was active in pressing the UK Government to set out a clear timetable for ratifying the Istanbul Convention, and we welcomed the passage of the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017. Under the Act; the UK Government was required to lay a report to Parliament by 1 November 2017 setting out how they intend to progress towards ratification. Scottish Government officials have already fed into this report to reflect the on-going work in Scotland on addressing outstanding areas of compliance. Through Equally Safe, we expect there to be on-going discussion and reflection on what more we can do to ensure realisation of the Convention in Scotland. The Scottish Government introduced an amendment to the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill to provide the Scottish courts with extra-territorial jurisdiction with respect to the offence of domestic abuse, in line with the requirements of the Convention.

17.9 Children and Young People

Equally Safe states that the definition we have adopted of violence against women and girls explicitly includes children of all genders as subject to harm through violence and that we will seek to reflect this in our work. The Scottish Government will continue to strengthen links with the Child Protection Improvement Programme, the Action Plan on internet safety for children and young people, the Action Plan to tackle child sexual exploitation, and the Child Abuse Prevention Framework which will be an integral part of our National Child Abuse Prevention Plan.

The Scottish Government will develop a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment with the assistance of children's organisations, and use this to inform our approach going forward.

The Equally Safe Delivery Plan includes a number of commitments to better protect children and young people, including:

  • Develop an information resource about gender based violence for children and young people, to provide better access to information and support;
  • Deliver the 'Voices Unheard' programme in order to support LGBT young people experiencing violence and build capacity within violence against women services to ensure that they are LGBT inclusive;
  • Improve the experience of vulnerable witnesses in criminal justice cases, initially focusing on child complainers and witnesses by bringing forward legislation to enable the greater use of pre-recording of their evidence;
  • Consider the prohibition of the personal examination of a child or other vulnerable witness in court proceedings under the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 by where the subject matter of the proceedings relates to conduct by that party towards that witness, or to other conduct which concerns the welfare of that witness;
  • In relation to child witnesses, support implementation of the Joint Investigative Interviews workstream project report;
  • Ensure that children's interests are better reflected in the civil justice system and that their voice is heard, including through review of the process used to obtain the voice of the child in contact and residence cases;
  • Incorporate the views of children and young people with experience of domestic abuse through the Power Up Power Down project into the review of part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995;
  • Consider the application of lessons from various international examples of the 'Barnahus' concept for child victims in criminal justice cases and how these could potentially apply within the Scottish context;
  • Establish a Safe and Together Institute for Scotland, and support the development of a demonstration project on the 'Safe and Together' model of child protection in a domestic abuse setting – encouraging a common understanding that perpetrators of abuse should be assessed and held accountable on their parenting choices which includes the perpetration of domestic abuse;
  • Consult on the terms of the child cruelty and neglect offence contained in the Children and Young Persons Act 1937, including whether the offence requires to be modernised to include emotional and psychological abuse and archaic language removed; and
  • Work with the Scottish Civil Justice Council on case management in family actions, including in relation to child welfare hearings – recognising that these types of hearings and contact cases require careful consideration to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are protected from further abuse.

17.10 Domestic Abuse Taskforce

Police Scotland has established a National Domestic Abuse Taskforce to target the most prolific perpetrators, and the Crown Office has a dedicated National Prosecutor for Domestic Abuse and a new Joint Protocol has been published which commits Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) to a consistent and robust approach to domestic abuse, and recognises the significant and enduring impact that domestic abuse can have on victims and children.

17.11 Justice

The Scottish Government's Justice Directorate commissioned a national scoping exercise of advocacy services relating to the criminal justice system for victims of violence against women and girls. The scoping exercise included advocacy services for victims of domestic abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, rape and sexual assault. It also covered advocacy services available for children and for men where these may have an impact on women's services.

The Scottish Government provided additional funding of £30,000 from the £20 million Violence against Women and Girls Justice to Rape Crisis Scotland to develop an awareness campaign to increase public understanding of responses to rape. The campaign complements the jury directions provisions introduced by the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016, which introduce a requirement for judges to give directions to juries on how people may respond to becoming a victim of rape, which are designed to ensure any pre-conceived views about how someone who has been raped should react do not influence how a jury reaches a decision in a case.

17.12 Minority Ethnic Women

The Scottish Government provides funding to a number of women's support organisations which provide specialist services for minority ethnic women, for instance Shakti Women's Aid, Saheliya, Kenyan Women in Scotland Association ( KWISA) and Hemat Gryffe Women's Aid. These community based organisations work to support women affected by gender based violence, so called honour based violence, including female genital mutilation ( FGM) and forced marriage, and domestic abuse.

The Scottish Government is working with CEMVO Scotland, a national intermediary organisation and strategic partner of the Scottish Government, to establish a facilitate a ethnic minority women's network.

The Scottish Government welcomed the Equalities and Human Rights Committee's 3rd Report 2017 entitled Hidden Lives – New Beginnings: Destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland following the Committee's Inquiry into Destitution, Asylum and Insecure Immigration Status in Scotland.

The Destitute Domestic Violence Concession, which was introduced in 2012, increases front line service providers' capacity to support women who are affected by the No Recourse to Public Funds ( NRPF) rule. However, as immigration is reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government's options for helping those affected are limited.


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