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Domestic Violence (Black and Minority Ethnic Victims)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 29th January 2009.

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Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North 6:00 pm, 29th January 2009

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to raise an issue that has been of great concern to me for the whole time that I have been an MP. Over the years, the Northampton Bangladeshi Association has hosted for me special advice surgeries for women. I have really appreciated that, together with its support and help in identifying women in the community who need help and support. One of the issues that has come up repeatedly is domestic violence. Two things strike me about the cases that the association has brought to my attention: first, the sheer scale of the suffering of the women; and secondly, the incredible difficulty that those women have in accessing services. That is why the big ask that I am going to make of my hon. Friend the Minister is for a dedicated funding stream from central Government to support work for domestic violence victims in black and minority ethnic communities.

As well as paying tribute to the work done by women in the Bangladeshi community to support other women who have been victims of domestic violence, I want to put on record my appreciation of the men of the community in Northampton, who have facilitated and supported the advice surgery and have, particularly in recent meetings, recognised that that is a real issue that needs to be addressed in and with the community by finding positive and constructive ways forward.

I also pay tribute to the pioneering work done by Southall Black Sisters, who have helped me with cases and provided advice for this speech. I thank the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and acknowledge the fact that I have drawn from its outstanding report, "I can't tell people what is happening at home", which brings together information about domestic violence in south Asian communities and its impact on women and children. Tomorrow sees the publication of another landmark report, this time by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the second edition of "Map of Gaps", which identifies some of the shortcomings that I will discuss.

The scale of domestic violence is well documented. It affects about 3 million women each year, and it is estimated to cost society about £40 billion each year in England and Wales alone. Despite all the progress that has been made in recent years in tackling the problem—I think that everybody recognises that the Labour Government have given outstanding attention to this and brought forward some major policy developments—still, unfortunately, far too few women report domestic violence, seek help or pursue their violent partners.

In looking at the experience of black and ethnic minority women, I want to emphasise that this debate is specifically about domestic violence and support for victims. There has been a great deal of discussion in this place about forced marriages, honour killings and the like, but there has been neither discussion nor action to support the specific needs of women in different black and minority ethnic communities who experience domestic violence in their day-to-day lives. I recognise that in some cases forced marriages and other issues might provide some context, but I want to focus on the specific experiences of the women.

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