Human rights in the UK: Universal Periodic Review, 2017 – Scottish Government position

Scottish Government position statement on Scotland’s performance against key international human rights obligations.

1. Combating violence against women and girls

The Scottish Government is preparing legislation for the creation of a specific offence of domestic abuse in the current parliamentary year. It 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. In March 2016 the Scottish Parliament passed the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act, [19] which will, once implemented, create a specific offence of sharing private intimate images without consent.

The Scottish Government is implementing Equally Safe , [20] Scotland's strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls - 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. Central to the Scottish Government approach is primary prevention of violence, which seeks to change attitudes and tackle inequality. Funding is at record levels: £24 million from the Equalities portfolio over 2015-17 and an additional £20 million over 2015-18 from Justice budgets. The 2016-17 PfG contains a commitment to bring forward delivery plans for 'Equally Safe' over the current parliamentary session, and a draft Delivery Plan was published for consultation on 23 March. [21]

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. 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. Third sector organisations across Scotland, including local Women's Aid groups and Rape Crisis Centres, are providing front line support for women and girls who have experienced violence and abuse.

Legal aid is available to victims of domestic and 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 and 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.

Forced marriage

The Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) Scotland Act 2011 [22] introduced a civil Forced Marriage Protection Order, breach of which is a criminal offence. From 30 September 2014, section 122 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 [23] made it a criminal offence to force a person into marriage. The Scottish Government funds a number of specialist organisations (£485,000 for 2016-17) that provide support and assistance to those affected or who may be affected by forced marriage. The Scottish Government commissioned independent research into forced marriage in Scotland and a final research report was published at the end of January 2017. [24] Findings from that research will inform future thinking on tackling the issue.

Female genital mutilation

In February 2016, Scotland's National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation ( FGM) 2016-2020 [25] was published. A Multi Agency Implementation Group has been established to oversee implementation and monitor progress of the actions from the plan. The Scottish Government is investing over £220,000 for 2016-17 to raise awareness of FGM, support those affected and work with third sector and statutory partners, including those in potentially affected communities.

FGM has been unlawful in Scotland since 1985. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 [26] 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 funded a community based consultation with a cross-section of potentially affected communities to hear their views on further legislative provisions in the Serious Crime Act 2015 (England and Wales) (Part 5 71-75). This consultation, which considered how any new legislation would meet the needs of potentially affected communities, produced a final research summary report and Scottish Ministers are considering next steps.


Email: David Holmes

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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