Moved by Baroness Gale
173: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—“Duty of the Secretary of State to take account of matters relating to genderIt is a duty of the Secretary of State in performing functions under this Act to take account of the evidence that domestic abuse affects women disproportionately and is a subset of violence against women and girls.”Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause establishes the gendered nature of domestic abuse in statute.
My Lords, I am pleased to move Amendment 173 in my name in this group of amendments.
It is a fact that domestic abuse disproportionately impacts women. More than one in four women in England and Wales will experience it at some point in their lives, compared with one in eight men. When we take a closer look at these statistics, we see that it is clear that the relationship between gender and domestic abuse is much deeper than the present statistics indicate, as the data on domestic abuse collected and published by the ONS does not take into account coercive and controlling behaviour. These are the best statistics that we have at the moment, but academics working in this field estimate that the gender disparity of experience of domestic abuse would significantly increase if coercive control were considered in these statistics.
An average of two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week. In the year ending March 2019, five times more women than men were killed by their partner or ex-partner. Over the past two years, over 96% of women killed in domestic homicides were killed by men. More than half the men killed in domestic homicides were killed by other men. These figures demonstrate clearly that the overwhelming majority of domestic abuse cases involve male violence perpetrated against women.
The Istanbul convention’s full title is the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The convention places domestic abuse within the wider violence against women and girls framework. Charities such as Refuge, EVAW and others continually urge the Government to widen the scope of the Domestic Abuse Bill and make it a violence against women and girls Bill, to ensure that domestic abuse and other forms of voilence against women are responded to in a holistic, joined-up manner, recognising the key role that gender plays in these abuses. But, so far, this has not happened. I believe that it is essential that the gendered nature of domestic abuse is recognised in this Bill. As the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill said in its final report:
“Incorporating a gendered definition of domestic abuse ensures compliance with the requirements of the Istanbul Convention in demonstrating a gendered understanding of violence against women and domestic abuse as a basis for all measures to protect and support victims.”
None of this is to say that men do not experience domestic abuse or that they are less deserving of the vital support that they need. What is does mean is that domestic abuse is a form of violence against women and girls, where women make up the vast majority of victims and survivors of domestic abuse and men make up the majority of perpetrators.
Domestic abuse in the form of the Istanbul convention is a form of gender-based violence
“that is directed against a woman because she is a woman”.
The gendered nature of domestic abuse needs to be understood by all people whose job it is to respond to domestic abuse survivors and perpetrators, such as police officers, teachers, work coaches, doctors and many others who, in all likelihood, come into contact with survivors of domestic abuse in their day-to-day lives.
According to Refuge, the largest specialist provider of domestic abuse services in the country, it is becoming increasingly common for local authority contracts for domestic abuse support services to rely on a complete misunderstanding about what domestic abuse is and, therefore, the needs of survivors. I agree with organisations such as Refuge, Women’s Aid, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, the Southall Black Sisters and virtually every other domestic abuse service provider, that the best way of raising awareness of domestic abuse as a form of violence against women and girls is to include this in the Bill.
The Government’s consistent response is that they agree that domestic abuse disproportionately impacts women, which is why they have included it in the statutory guidance accompanying the Bill. In fact, their 2020 report on progress toward ratification of the Istanbul convention says, on page 9:
“In March 2016 we published our cross-Government VAWG Strategy”— that is, violence against women and girls—
“which set out our approach to tackling all forms of VAWG, including domestic abuse, so called ‘honour-based’ abuse, stalking and sexual violence. The Strategy recognised the gendered nature of these crimes, and committed to continuing to challenge deep-rooted social norms, attitudes and behaviours that discriminate against and limit women and girls across all communities … In March 2019, we published a refreshed Strategy to ensure that we were doing all that we could to tackle these crimes which disproportionately affect women.”
Those are the Government’s own words. They recognise that women are disproportionately affected, and all I am asking is that that be recognised in the Bill.
The Government have also said that the Bill, not the statutory guidance, will be the primary driver of domestic abuse policy. It is the legislation that police officers, work coaches, housing officers, local commissioners, employers and numerous others will look to when forming domestic abuse policies and procedures. If we do not make sure that the Bill includes an accurate description of domestic abuse then we will miss a huge opportunity to challenge some damaging ideas and dangerous practices.
The Government have also raised the concern that recognising domestic abuse as a form of violence against women and girls in the Bill would exclude male victims of domestic abuse from the definition. That is simply not true. Acknowledging domestic abuse as a form of violence against women and girls does not automatically exclude men, non-binary people or indeed anyone else from being included under the legal definition. The amendment demonstrates that it is perfectly possible to recognise domestic abuse as a form of violence against women and girls in the Bill without excluding any survivor, regardless of gender, from the definition.
This is one of the issues that received significant attention from the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which devoted a huge amount of time to scrutinising the Bill. Its report says:
“We believe many of the objections to a gendered definition of domestic abuse come from concerns that it could exclude men from the protection of the Act. We recognise this concern but our evidence shows it is based on a misunderstanding of what a gendered definition means in practice. A gendered definition of abuse does not exclude men. Anyone can, sadly, suffer from domestic abuse just as anyone, regardless of gender, can perpetrate it. In recommending a gendered definition of domestic abuse we want to embed a nuanced approach to the most effective response to domestic abuse for all individuals who suffer such violence, and to ensure that public authorities understand the root causes of this complex crime.”
The Bill is a chance to make a real difference to how domestic abuse is understood and responded to. The amendment gives us the best chance of ensuring that the primary driver of awareness is accurate, reflecting the gendered nature of domestic abuse and ensuring that survivors can access the support that they need. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment 185 in my name is a modest, simple amendment that would require the statutory guidance to take account of the Government’s violence against women and girls strategy alongside the existing requirement that the guidance takes account of the fact that the majority of domestic abuse victims and survivors are female. The latter was introduced by the Government in response to criticisms of the non-gendered nature of the Bill’s definition of domestic abuse, which my noble friend has been talking about so ably. The amendment has the support of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, to which I am grateful for its work in this area and its support, as I am to noble Lords who have signed the amendment. It also has the support of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and of the commissioner-designate, who has welcomed the amendment as ensuring that efforts to prevent and address domestic abuse are linked to an integrated and co-ordinated response to VAWG.
The coalition gives numerous examples of how domestic abuse is often experienced in the context of other forms of violence so that the two cannot be neatly separated out, especially in the case of black and minoritised women. These include the one-third of rapes going through the criminal justice system that were carried out in the context of domestic violence; forced marriages, which may involve coercive family control and abuse, rape and domestic violence; migrant women who have suffered domestic abuse, coercive control, sexual violence and financial exploitation combined; and the abuse of disabled women and girls, which also often involves rape and sexual violence.
While I support the amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lady Gale, I see my amendment very much as a bottom line. It goes a small way toward meeting the recommendation by the Joint Committee on the draft Bill that
“there should be greater integration of policies on domestic abuse and violence against women and girls to reflect the realities of the experience of victims.”
As my noble friend pointed out, the Joint Committee made it clear that this did not mean excluding men, boys and non-binary people from domestic abuse protection. The Joint Committee suggested that:
“The legislation and practice in Wales provide useful lessons in this area.”
In their response, the Government agreed that
“it is vital to integrate policies on domestic abuse with wider VAWG issues, and our situation of domestic abuse policy within our VAWG Strategy demonstrates our recognition of the gendered nature of domestic abuse.”
In similar vein, as my noble friend observed, the 2020 report on progress toward ratification of the Istanbul convention placed the Domestic Abuse Bill firmly within the context of VAWG.
Yet it is now clear that the Government, far from integrating the two strategies, intend their revised VAWG strategy, on which they are currently consulting, to be separate from their domestic abuse strategy. This has caused consternation among women’s organisations and others working to end VAWG in all its forms. They see it as breaking a 10-year cross-party consensus around the need for an integrated approach to tackling domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG. That is rooted in an understanding of the reality of women’s experiences and of the kind of integrated services provided by specialist services, particularly those by and for black and minoritised women. They fear it will accelerate a shift to a more gender-neutral approach to domestic abuse and violence.
The separation also goes against the EHRC recommendation that there should be:
“A single new cross-government VAWG strategy that addresses VAWG in all its forms, recognising domestic abuse as a form of VAWG, and the value of specialist by and for services”.
Furthermore, it is arguably at odds with Article 7(1) of the Istanbul convention, which requires Governments to adopt
“comprehensive and co-ordinated policies encompassing all relevant measures to prevent and combat all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention and offer a holistic response to violence against women.”
There is a clear consensus among those who work on the ground and other key organisations that this separation is a retrograde step. Ministers are well aware of the strength of feeling yet insist that they are right. Moreover, they have not even included this key change of policy in the consultation that they are currently conducting on the new VAWG strategy. Could the Minister explain why the Government are so sure that they are right that not only are they refusing to listen to key stakeholders but they have not even included this issue in the consultation?
The officers of the APPG on Domestic Violence and Abuse, of which I am a vice-chair, met the Minister for Safeguarding in December following an APPG meeting in which a range of VAWG experts emphasised that the new strategy must reflect the interconnectedness of women’s experiences, in particular disadvantaged and minoritised women’s, of abuse and violence, which shape their access to support, safety and justice. We very much appreciated the time she gave us, but I do not think anyone was reassured by her argument that, as the strategies will complement and sit next to each other, we should be pleased that we are in effect getting two strategies for the price of one.
It has also been argued that a separate VAWG strategy will allow for targeted work on crime types which have previously not been addressed, or addressed inadequately, while also allowing breathing space for other, less well-understood crime types to be gripped more fully. I am at a loss as to why separate strategies can do this more effectively than an integrated strategy that would include different strands. Could the Minister explain this please?
However well-intentioned the current Ministers and civil servants are, it is important that this complementarity is given legislative underpinning, and this amendment would do just that. I cannot see any reason why the Government should reject it because it does no more than give effect to their own claims about the strategies, and follows a model adopted by them with regard to the gendered nature of domestic abuse.
My Lords, I stand to support Amendment 185, also in my name. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for her very able introduction and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for her support. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I raised this issue at Second Reading. I also declare an interest due to my involvement in the APPG on Women, Peace and Security and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and both those agendas. My work on these issues has demonstrated to me, time and again, that women and girls across the world, not just in the UK, are more likely to suffer from violence and abuse and form the greater proportion of victims. It is, sadly, a gendered crime. While men can and do experience abuse, women are disproportionately impacted.
It is important that legislation results in practical and workable solutions on the ground. This means policies and strategies need to be joined up and not left to act in their own silos. Many other crimes covered by the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls strategy, such as rape, forced marriage, FGM and stalking, overlap and are connected with domestic abuse. It is remiss that we are discussing this very welcome and progressive Bill to help combat domestic violence and yet there is no mention of the VAWG strategy. It is something that a number of organisations working in this space have highlighted as a gap. This short amendment neatly remedies this issue and would also help ensure compliance with Article 7 of the Istanbul convention. It is win-win, and I hope my noble friend the Minister will consider it favourably.
Before I sit down—or metaphorically sit down—I would like to add a comment about Amendment 186, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which is also in this group. In his very moving speech at Second Reading, he reminded us that
“one third of victims of domestic abuse are men, but only 4% of victims being supported by local domestic violence services are men.”—[
It is important that we work hard to uncover the extent of all hidden abuse and, as I have said before, have a zero-tolerance response, regardless of age or gender.
My Lords, I metaphorically rise to speak to Amendment 185. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for outlining the issues so clearly. It is a real honour to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, and I am delighted to have added my name to Amendment 185. I do not want to repeat what they have eloquently said already, all of which I agree with.
The UK is party to international treaties and conventions that make it clear that we must deliver a co-ordinated response and integrated measures to end violence against women and girls. Amendment 185, as we have heard, simply seeks to ensure good join-up: the statutory guidance issued alongside the Bill must be linked to any violence against women and girls framework.
I am extremely grateful to the Minister for a good meeting recently to discuss the need for statutory guidance to include an understanding of different faith contexts regarding violence against women and girls, as there is much good work being done, not least by the Faith and VAWG Coalition, which is well-known to the domestic abuse commissioner-designate. I am grateful to the Minister for her deep listening and I look forward to faith groups continuing to work with officials and Ministers.
With Amendment 185, I ask that similar attention is paid to joining up the vital work of the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and the Domestic Abuse Bill. It is vital that this is done, as we have heard.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 186 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As before, this addresses the same cause as our previous amendment that applied to the guidance. As debated before, domestic abuse experienced by men, and abuse in same-sex relationships, can be of quite a different nature. Just as the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, is trying to ensure a recognition, with her Amendment 173, that the sort of abuse that women in heterosexual relationships experience is of a different nature and volume from others, we are trying to ensure that, even though less in quantity and different in nature, the needs of men experiencing domestic abuse and abuse in same-sex couples are in the guidance, so that matters that pertain to their circumstances are addressed in the particular.
This amendment iterates that one-third of those facing abuse are male. I remember being surprised the first time I heard that figure by the level of domestic abuse directed towards men, when this was in my portfolio at the Home Office and I visited male refuges and services. Of course, women suffer two-thirds of domestic abuse, and perhaps we are more familiar with that scenario, but we think it is important to have the proportion on the record, for what is not counted may not count. If our earlier amendment and this are incorporated, it just becomes a statement of fact and is there to simply meet different needs, not to reduce the importance of the gendered aspects of violence against women.
Guidance is tremendously important, regardless of numbers or proportions. As the experience is so very different for men or those in same-sex relationships, it therefore requires very different support and different solutions. Women in heterosexual relationships who are being abused have a different experience: often, their abuse is repeated and severe, and it often includes sexual violence. However, men’s experience where their female partner abuses them is often complicated by old male norms, where “real men don’t complain”, or they are afraid that it makes them less of a man. This is not always the case, but it is clearly a very different scenario for men in that situation.
For those in same-sex relationships, domestic abuse is actually more likely to occur in homosexual couples than in heterosexual couples. Again, the issues and the remedies must be differentiated and addressed. Even today, with the vast strides forward, from civil partnerships to same-sex marriage, members of the LGBT community can experience a level of stress that is relevant only to LGBT people.
A gay, male American victim of domestic abuse said, “I never identified it as domestic violence due to the images out there being about domestic violence only being an issue experienced by heterosexual women”. While I recognise that the Government are trying to steer clear of gendering the Bill and understand their desire to do so, the experiences of those who suffer domestic abuse, be they men or women in heterosexual relationships, same-sex or other relationships, require specific and different guidance to address their experiences and their needs.
My Lords, I would like to speak to Amendment 186, and I would also like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for being so honest and open about his own experience.
At Second Reading, a number of noble Lords spoke about Erin Pizzey, who set up the first ever refuge for women and deserves much credit for doing so. It was good to see her being acknowledged in the context of this Bill, because the truth is that you do not hear much about Erin Pizzey anymore. Once she began campaigning on behalf of male victims of domestic abuse, she was pretty much airbrushed out of history. This is not the time to get into the whys and wherefores of that, but it shows how the facts were forgotten as the debate became more politicised.
As far as I can see, this amendment is simply stating a fact. It does not ignore the reality that the majority of victims are female; it simply seeks to acknowledge
“that one third are male, and that some are in same sex relationships”.
Of course, this figure may change, so it could be difficult to be so specific on the face of the Bill. But I think the aim is a good one—to make sure that in recognising that women are disproportionately affected we do not forget that there are other victims of domestic abuse. We do not want inadvertently to diminish the voice of others or discourage them from coming forward, as was mentioned by the last speaker. Let us not forget that the aim of this Bill is to encourage and protect all victims of domestic abuse.
My Lords, on an earlier day in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, said:
“The Bill seeks to raise the profile of domestic abuse in all its forms, and the wide definition should therefore help to clarify that wide-ranging nature for all involved in the criminal justice system.”—[
I am increasingly concerned that this notion of profile-raising and these wide definitions are doing the opposite of clarifying and may unintentionally muddy the waters and see the legislation opened up as a vehicle to push a wide range of politically driven ideologies and hobby horses.
Here, we have what looks to be straightforward: the linkage of domestic abuse to the violence against women and girls agenda. These may seem obvious things to link. Certainly, I am of an age that I remember when this was a feminist issue. In some ways, it was simpler and there was more clarity when we talked of domestic violence—not abuse—and “battered wives” and “battered women.” I understand this legislation wants to be scrupulously gender neutral, but I have felt at times that this approach means erasing the reality that women are predominantly the victims of abuse, especially violent abuse. But I understand the Government’s desire to ensure equality under the law and to avoid as unhelpful the group victimhood of women or the labelling of all men as potential perpetrators. Also, we have greater knowledge now. We know that male partners can be victims, that women can be perpetrators and that same-sex relationships can be abusive. All that means we have a more inclusive approach.
To help clarify, one could argue that what is required is more information and data so that we have incontrovertible stats about who are victims, who are perpetrators and so on. However, even this endeavour can become mired in ideological positioning. I was reminded of this when, in an early Committee sitting discussing Amendment 146, data collection became jumbled up, I thought quite inappropriately, with a discussion about whether misogyny should be a hate crime—by the way, when we discuss that as a proposed new law, I will oppose it. Regardless, that discussion revealed the pitfalls of muddling up contentious political arguments with lawmaking.
After all, even if we decide, or the facts prove, that women are largely the victims of abuse by men, it is not for this law or even this House to decide why that is true. This was clarified again for me in that discussion of misogyny, when no clear definition of it was given yet it was argued that misogyny led to specific hate-based violence against women and girls. For example, in that exchange, the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, quoting the White Ribbon Campaign, noted
“one in five British men thinks that feminism has gone ‘too far’”—[
The politics around women’s issues are just not so black and white, and the Bill should steer clear of them. Indeed, while about one in five men think that feminism has gone too far, there are actually aspects of today’s feminism that I think have gone too far and are hugely problematic—maybe I have got internalised misogyny. Let us put it this way: I do not always share the orthodoxies of contemporary feminism.
Conversely, when we are talking about violence aimed at women and girls, many feminist friends of mine would argue that one of the rising examples of misogyny and abuse aimed at women is now coming forward from the toxic discussions surrounding the orthodoxies put forward by trans activists. I say “trans activists” and not “trans people” because there is a distinction between the two—a huge chasm, indeed.
Watch the sparks fly, the misogynist abuse flow and the threats come your way if you try to be a supporter of the writer J. K. Rowling or the SNP’s Joanna Cherry, arguing for the wrong views on gender, identity or— pertinently to this discussion—the need for single-sex spaces, such as women’s refuges, and on refusing to open up those spaces, or the delivery of intimate services for females, to those who identify as, but are not biologically, female.
I say this and try to look at a number of examples of where things are contentious because these matters are highly sensitive and difficult, and I simply do not want this Bill to get sidetracked by them. As such, I think that the Minister should avoid all the political agendas when drawing up this legislation and keep it simple: get the bad guys or bad girls, but keep away from the politics.
My Lords, these three short amendments bring together some very big debates around the Bill—much as the overall Bill has been welcomed from all sides of the House. I state my position as a feminist, as I have been since age five—and that is a trans-inclusive feminist.
I will begin with what I think is the easy amendment of this group: Amendment 185, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, and backed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester. It concerns joining up government policy and ensuring that any strategy to end violence against women and girls is thought of in the guidance around this Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, said, this is a bottom-line, very simple approach. It asks that government thinking be joined-up and not be split into silos.
The Istanbul convention, which the Government are explicitly trying to comply with through this legislation, seeks
“to promote and protect the right for everyone, particularly women, to live free from violence in both the public and the private sphere”.
This amendment is very much in line with that approach.
We come now to Amendment 173 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Gale. I very much agree with and support the broad intention of this amendment, particularly the first part of it. It is important to ensure that the Bill is not gender-neutral. The Bill must make it clear that domestic violence and abuse are perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women. I am indebted to the Women Against Rape and the Support Not Separation coalitions for drawing my attention to figures from the Office for National Statistics from 2018: in the year ending in March, 92% of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions were men, while 83% of victims were women and 95% of calls to domestic abuse hotlines were made by women. Gender-neutrality is at risk of hiding the nature of violence and the nature of our patriarchal society, and enabling perpetrators, sometimes in tit-for-tat claims, to then suggest that they are victims themselves.
However, on the wording of Amendment 173, I am not comfortable with the final phrase, which identifies domestic abuse as
“a subset of violence against women and girls.”
This is where I come to Amendment 186 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I agree with his broad intention, because the fact is that there are significant numbers of male victims of domestic abuse. I share with others the concerns about expressing that statistic—and the statistic in the amendment is very much contested—although I acknowledge that the figures I read out earlier may be influenced by a lack of understanding of domestic abuse against male victims and by social stereotypes.
None the less, I think we need to not be gender-neutral in this Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, said, the Government are trying to steer clear of gendering the Bill, but we are a society in which gender is a major characteristic. This has huge impacts on people’s power, access to resources and risk of domestic abuse. If the Bill does not recognise that fact, then I suggest it is failing to meet our obligations under the Istanbul convention.
My Lords, the first and perhaps most obvious thing to say is that, following the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, scratching from this group, I am the only man speaking here. If the Committee will allow me, I am going to take this very carefully.
I thank my noble friend Lady Featherstone and the noble Baronesses, Lady Hodgson of Abinger and Lady Sanderson of Welton, for their support. I want to carefully go through what the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, said, before getting on to my substantive remarks. She said that domestic abuse disproportionately affects women. Clearly, it does. She also felt that the ONS figures took no account of coercive control. On where men are likely to be able to use their power to exert control over women, there are certain circumstances where coercive control is more in the hands of the man than the woman. However, on the other hand, it does not require physical strength, for example. I am not sure how much including coercive control would change the dial on the statistics. Speaking for myself and the abuse that I suffered, coercive control was the major part of that abuse.
The noble Baroness, Lady Gale, talked about higher levels of femicide; I will talk about homicides where there are male victims in my main remarks. She talked about violence directed against women because they are women. Clearly, that is the definition of violence against women and girls, but my position is that that is not the definition of domestic abuse—and this is the Domestic Abuse Bill. Agreeing almost completely with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, I would say that an accurate description of domestic abuse is not, to use the expression of the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, that it is a subset of violence against women and girls.
I accept far more the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett. She explained that her amendment would mean that the guidance should take into account any strategy to end violence against women and girls. I agree that it makes no sense for any guidance issued under this Bill not to take account of any strategy to end violence against women and girls, as there is a substantial, but not exclusive, overlap between the two.
Amendment 173 requires the Secretary of State to take into account the evidence that domestic abuse affects women disproportionately and, as I have just said, is a subset of violence against women and girls. I accept that two-thirds of the victims of reported domestic violence cases are women and that, as a result, it can be said that domestic abuse disproportionately affects women—there is no dispute about that. It is also therefore a fact that one-third of victims of domestic abuse are men. Domestic abuse is not a subset of violence against women and girls in the sense that it is not exclusively, or even overwhelmingly, the result of male violence against women.
It has been suggested that you cannot rely on the statistics. Noble Lords will be familiar with the alleged connection between lies and statistics, but I will give the Committee some more. The noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, talked about wanting incontrovertible facts. In the area of domestic violence, I do not think that incontrovertible facts exist. We know that domestic abuse is common, but it is often hidden and difficult to quantify. Half of male victims fail to tell anyone that they are the victim of domestic abuse.
I was a senior police officer when I was subjected to domestic violence that caused cuts and bruises, where I was kicked and punched by my abusive partner—legally, an assault causing wounding, punishable with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. I did not report it to the police, and I did not even tell my own parents, such was the shame and fear of retribution from my abusive partner that I felt at the time.
The information that I have been provided with—I am grateful to the ManKind Initiative for its work in this area—shows that male victims are far more likely to report that the perpetrator of domestic abuse was female, in 60% of cases, compared with 1% of cases where the abuser was male. Of course, female victims were more likely to report that the perpetrator was male, in 56% of cases, but also that more than 2% of perpetrators were female. The Crime Survey for England and Wales for 2017-18 recorded 695,000 male victims of domestic abuse, compared with 1,310,000 female victims. If these statistics are correct, a significant amount of domestic abuse is perpetrated by women.
These statistics should, however, be treated with caution. A relatively large proportion of victims said that they did not wish to identify the sex of the perpetrator or that they did not know. A third of male victims did not want to tell the ONS what the sex of the perpetrator was, and almost 40% of female victims did not want to declare the sex of the perpetrator in cases of domestic abuse. The latest officially verifiable statistics from the Scottish Crime and Justice survey—we have to go north of the border for the collection of data on same-sex relationships—showed that between 10% and 12% of male victims of partner abuse were in same-sex relationships; 88% of male victims of domestic abuse claimed that the perpetrator was female; and figures for domestic abuse recorded by Police Scotland showed that 18% of victims who contacted the police were male.
The ONS produced detailed homicide statistics for the period April 2012 to March 2015 for a bespoke piece of research on homicide. These show that, over a three-year period, 38 men—a far, far fewer number than female victims—were definitely known to have been the victim of a homicide by an intimate partner or an ex-partner. Of those 38 men who died, 33 were killed by a woman and five were killed by a man.
Of course, I am not attempting to hide that male violence is a major issue in society and that male violence against women and girls is a major problem. I accept that there is a power relationship between women and men, and that women are predominantly the carers and protectors of children and, on the whole, poorer—especially single mothers. They are therefore more vulnerable to economic abuse.
I gratefully acknowledge the work of women’s groups, particularly Women against Rape, with which I have been in dialogue, in bringing about positive change in relation to domestic abuse. We would not be here today debating this Bill if it were not for women organising to end male violence against women and girls. Male and female victims of same-sex domestic abuse would not have the support and protection they have today were it not for campaigners fighting to end male violence against women. What I am questioning, however, is whether all domestic violence is a gendered crime, the result of sex inequality, as the first amendment in this group suggests.
My Lords, I speak to Amendment 173 in the name of my noble friend Lady Gale, who has done so much to support and defend the rights of women during her career in Wales and in the wider United Kingdom. She made many powerful points in her speech, urging an holistic and joined-up approach to this issue, and she remains steadfast in her support for the adoption of the Istanbul convention. I also closely associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. I, too, was a feminist from my early childhood years, having been raised single-handedly by a resourceful and formidable Welsh man.
Wales has already adopted a gender definition in relation to domestic abuse. The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 includes all forms of violence and abuse against women and girls, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual violence, stalking, forced marriage, so-called honour-based violence, FGM, trafficking and sexual exploitation, including through the sex industry, and sexual harassment in work and public life.
At a global, European and national level, violence against women, including domestic abuse and sexual violence, operates as a means of social control that maintains unequal power relations between women and men, and reinforces women’s subordinate status. It is explicitly linked to systematic discrimination against women and girls. Failing to make the connections between the different violence that women and girls experience and how it is explicitly linked to their unequal position in society can hinder the effectiveness of interventions and prevention work. It is also important to recognise that different groups of women experience multiple inequalities, which lead to further marginalisation.
There are significant differences in the frequency and nature of abuse experienced by men and the abuse experienced by women, notwithstanding the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I take on board many of the points that he raised. However, the gender of both victim and perpetrator influences the behaviour, risk and severity of harm caused. Abuse perpetrated by men against women is a quantitively and qualitatively distinct phenomenon. Women and girls experience violence and abuse in their everyday lives at higher rates.
As we have heard, though it is worth repeating, more than 1.7 million women in the UK have experienced domestic sexual assault and rape. That is more than 12 times the number of men who have experienced this trauma. In 2019, five times more women than men were killed by their partner or ex-partner. Over the past few years, over 96% of women killed in domestic homicides—almost all—were killed by men. Of the men who were killed in domestic homicides, more than half were killed by other men. We know that domestic abuse impacts everyone: men, women and children. But we also know that it is women and girls who suffer the most frequent and severe abuse. It is important to acknowledge that to enable practice and support to be tailored to the specific needs of the person experiencing abuse, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.
I also speak in support of Amendment 185 in the name of my noble friend Lady Lister, which requires the statutory guidance to take account of the Government’s strategy on violence against women and girls, alongside the existing requirement that the guidance takes account of the fact that the majority of domestic abuse victims and survivors are female. As she said so expertly and with much learned experience in this field, it is clear that the Government intend their revised VAWG strategy, currently going through consultation, to be separate from their domestic abuse strategy. Many supporters feel that a 10-year cross-party consensus on the need for an integrated approach to tackling domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG is now broken. Amendment 185 would allow that position to be reversed. I urge the Government to listen to my learned noble friend Lady Lister and adopt her amendment, along with the amendment of my noble friend Lady Gale, who has done so much to enshrine the rights of women becoming the law of our lands.
My Lords, I pay tribute to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate because between them they have achieved the impossible of getting the balance right. It is very difficult to recognise that most victims are female while getting the legislation and guidance right.
I mention in particular the words of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who is my friend. As the only man speaking on this group, he recognised that the Bill would not be here if it were not for women. His personal accounts are always really moving and it takes tremendous bravery to recount them. Many people are still too traumatised to even speak about abuse and many accounts will remain unheard. We are very lucky to hear his account.
We know that victims’ needs must be at the centre of our approach to domestic abuse. They are individuals with individual needs. That includes an understanding and appreciation of their gender and, of course, sexuality. The latest Office for National Statistics report showed 4% of men aged 16 to 59 experienced domestic abuse. Of course that figure, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out, will be much higher as domestic abuse is so often a hidden harm, and it is too often underreported.
For a multitude of factors, including often misplaced cultural norms of masculinity, and how that is perpetuated, male victims sadly feel they cannot report their experiences, whether to specialist support services or the police. There are also some very specific issues that are unique to the experiences of LGBT victims, which include but of course are not limited to the threat of disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity to family.
This is one of the reasons we have a gender-neutral definition. This approach is absolutely critical to ensuring that all victims and all types of domestic abuse are sufficiently captured, and that nobody—absolutely nobody—is inadvertently excluded from protection, support or accessing the help that they need. As an aside, the Istanbul convention definition itself is gender neutral. That is why, in the statutory guidance provided for in Clause 73, we detail the unique considerations among other issues, including expanding on the range of abuse and the forms that it can take, and on specific communities and groups, such as male victims and those in same-sex relationships, as well as, of course, minority ethnic and migrant groups.
It might be an opportunity to read out Clause 73, which gives powers to the Secretary of State
“to issue guidance about domestic abuse, etc … The Secretary of State may issue guidance about … the effect of any provision made by or under” certain sections of the Bill, as well as,
“other matters relating to domestic abuse in England and Wales.”
Clause 73(3) states:
“Any guidance issued under this section must … take account of the fact that the majority of victims … (excluding children treated as victims by virtue of section 3) are female.”
I would like to reassure noble Lords that there has been extensive engagement on the statutory guidance. This is exactly why we published it in draft in July. A series of thematic working groups has been undertaken, where the focus has been on the unique needs of male victims, and separately on LGBT victims. This engagement and consultation on the guidance will continue following Royal Assent. I would like to thank all noble Lords for providing feedback and for their thoughts on the guidance to date. Let me be clear; this approach in ensuring that we are taking into account all victims is one we will consider beyond the Bill in the forthcoming domestic abuse strategy.
Amendment 185, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, seeks to build on the provisions in Clause 73 by seeking to ensure that any guidance issued under this clause takes into consideration any strategy to end violence against women and girls adopted by a Minister of the Crown.
Noble Lords will know that in 2016 the Government published the violence against women and girls strategy, which ran until 2020. The Government intend to publish a new violence against women and girls strategy, followed by a complementary domestic abuse strategy. We launched a call for evidence to inform a new VAWG—as we call it—strategy on
The main argument raised by proponents of the amendment centres around the gendered nature of domestic abuse and the Government’s decision not to produce a single, integrated violence against women and girls strategy to include domestic abuse, in recognition of the gendered nature of domestic abuse. Proponents argue that this approach ignores the reality of women’s experiences and threatens to undermine specialist service provision, which takes an integrated approach to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women and girls. Concerns have also been raised that the domestic abuse definition is not gender specific.
I will take this opportunity to reiterate that the Government fully recognise that domestic abuse is both a cause and a consequence of power inequality, with women disproportionately the victims. Women are more likely to experience repeat victimisation, be physically injured or killed as result of domestic abuse, and experience non-physical abuse—including emotional and financial abuse—than men. Neither of these strategies detracts from that.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that around two-thirds of all victims of domestic abuse are female, meaning that around a third are male. That is why the definition of domestic abuse is not gender specific, as male victims of this abhorrent crime must also be recognised and protected. This point was well made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Interestingly, he also said that a third of male victims of domestic abuse did not want to reveal the sex of their perpetrator. Accompanying documents such as the statutory guidance and the domestic abuse strategy will make the gendered nature of domestic abuse clear.
Late last year, the Government announced their intention to publish two distinct but complementary strategies on domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. This does not mean that we do not recognise domestic abuse as a gendered crime. Indeed, our intention in producing a discrete domestic abuse strategy is to create space to focus on the high-harm, high-prevalence form of violence against women and girls—or VAWG—while allowing space for lesser-understood VAWG crimes to be considered in the separate VAWG strategy. The two strategies will work together to drive down VAWG crimes and their impact on society. Both strategies will continue to recognise the gendered nature of these crimes.
The Government fully understand that domestic abuse is, at its core, a subset of wider crimes against women and girls, and I can assure noble Lords that these two strategies will not stand alone but rather will complement and cross-reference each other, sharing much of the same framework and evidence. As such, the Government do not consider Amendment 185 to be necessary, as none of the wider work carried out by the Government is seeking to de-gender domestic abuse, and Clause 73(3), as it stands, is sufficient.
I hope that I have reassured all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and I thank them again for their contributions.
My Lords, I strongly agree with the Minister that domestic abuse should be gender neutral. I particularly support the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, in what she said about Amendment 186. But I ask the Minister to take into account in the proposed strategy that some gay men suffer from serious coercive control from family members trying to force them into a forced marriage.
I fully recognise that point. I also recognise that conversion therapy might take place, not just in certain cultures but in this country as well, to try to convert gay men. A lot goes on, including, as the noble and learned Baroness said, families forcing people down a route against their wishes.
My Lords, I want to assure the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that he is not alone. I support the powerful speeches made by my noble friends Lady Gale and Lady Wilcox, without detracting in any way from what the noble Lord had to say.
I want to raise with the Minister the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, made about the Government’s desire for this to be a gender-neutral Bill. The Minister spoke on this very carefully and said within the forthcoming strategy there would be gender-specific elements. The question I want to put back to her is: if it is okay to have gender-specific elements in a strategy, why on earth can that not be covered in the legislation?
This is prompted by the publication of the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill that is being debated in the Commons tomorrow. That Bill excludes the words “women” or “mothers”, instead referring to a “person” who is pregnant and a “person” who
“has given birth to a child.”
My question to the Minister is about whether the Government have decided not to use the term “woman” in future legislation. Does she share my concern that there is a risk of delegitimising specific concerns about women, and that women’s hard-won rights over the past six decades are in danger of dissipation as a result?
My Lords, I think what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has just said could be the subject of a Question for Short Debate or even quite a long debate in your Lordships’ House, so complex is what he has just said so simply. By making reference to gender in the guidance but also having a gender-neutral definition, we recognise two things: first, that domestic abuse is mainly perpetrated against women, but taking into account that men, such the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who outlined his story so eloquently, can also be victims of domestic abuse. I said at the beginning of my speech that our aim is to protect and support all victims of domestic abuse, so I hope that what the Government have done, notwithstanding the legislation in the Commons, has struck that balance right.
My Lords, I very much appreciate the Minister’s sensitive response to the amendment, but I asked her two questions and I do not think she really answered them. First, when all the stakeholders—all the people working in this area—think that it is a retrograde step to separate, even if they are complementary, domestic abuse and VAWG strategies, why do the Government think that they are right and everyone else is wrong?
My other question was why the Government think that separate strategies will be more effective than an integrated strategy, which could have separate strands within it? The Minister said that my amendment—or our amendment, because it is supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, to whom I am very grateful—is not necessary, but she has not said anything that convinces me that there is an argument against including it in the draft guidance. It is not about just gender neutrality; it is about integration, coherence and a holistic strategy.
I do not know how much she can say now, but it suggests that we may have to come back with this in order to get a more plausible answer about why this should not go into the guidance alongside what has already been put in it by the Government on gender.
I understand what the noble Baroness says. She made a point about VAWG versus DA. Of course, domestic abuse is a type of violence against women and girls, although violence against women and girls goes far wider than domestic abuse. We are going to be bringing forward a domestic abuse strategy later this year. I can see the noble Baroness shaking her head, and I do not think I am going to convince her at this stage.
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I also thank Refuge for their briefings and support. As the Minister said, I think we have got the right balance in our debate today. I totally agree with my noble friend Lady Lister, the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester speaking in support of Amendment 185. They were criticising the Bill for being a non-gendered one, or gender neutral, when most people have spoken in support and said we should recognise that.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, first for being the only male voice—although my noble friend Lord Hunt was able to put his views in, and I thank him for that. I agree with a lot of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said. He said that it is not anybody’s intention to say that men do not suffer from domestic abuse and are not victims, because they are, and we know that women can be perpetrators. I do not want to undermine that in any shape or form. The noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, was raising this issue very strongly and was absolutely right: we should recognise all victims of domestic abuse.
The purpose of the amendments today was to illustrate that it is a gendered crime. Women are the majority of victims and men are the perpetrators, but that does not exclude recognising that there are male victims and female perpetrators. We have had a very good debate today. I am pleased with everyone who has taken part and put their views forward. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 173 withdrawn.