Violence against Women and Girls

Part of Contamination of Beef Products – in the House of Commons at 2:10 pm on 14th February 2013.

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Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall 2:10 pm, 14th February 2013

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to contribute to this very important debate. I congratulate those who secured it, and those who have contributed to it so far. Let me also say that it is great to follow George Freeman. This important issue is close to the heart of many Members who are present today, and I know that those who are not present support the motion.

A recent incident in New Delhi unfortunately led to the death of a 23-year-old woman whom the people of India named “Nirbhaya Damini”, the brave-hearted daughter of India. Damini was brutally gang-raped by a group of men on a public bus. She suffered from various injuries which severely damaged both her brain and her body, and as a result of that inhumane act, she died on 29 December 2012.

This particular act of violence has sparked much anger in India, here in the UK, and throughout the world, and it is part of the reason why I stand here to discuss the subject of violence against women and girls. Over the last few months, through vigils in my constituency and outside the Indian high commission, I have been able to witness the hundreds of people who have been brought together to share their anger against the perpetrators of such a despicable act. All of us were in Parliament square this afternoon to support those were campaigning against the violence.

I want to focus my remarks on women and girls with an ethnic-minority background. Through my work in my constituency, I have come across many women and girls who, because of their background, require special assistance to protect them from violence, and who are much more vulnerable as victims. Women and young girls should not have to endure violence. We have a moral duty to protect our citizens, especially those who are in an especially vulnerable position. Many women suffer violence and are then unable to leave or take action against the perpetrators: they face different challenges, and feel powerless to overcome those obstacles.

Numerous acts of violence have been inflicted on women and young girls in recent years, and such issues are now being widely addressed. However, women from an ethnic-minority background may suffer various violent acts, notably female genital mutilation, “honour-based” killings—of which there are more than 2,800 a year—forced marriages, domestic violence perpetrated by their husbands, in-laws and other family members, dowry-related abuse, and suicide or self-harm aggravated by harassment or violence.

It is vital to acknowledge that in some cases, women with an ethnic-minority background suffer acts of violence that are deemed acceptable and perpetrated by a group of family members. The main concept behind those acts is the “shaming” of the women’s families or community members. It is absolutely vital to eradicate that absurd concept, which is often used by perpetrators to justify their actions.