Amnesty International has welcomed a letter from the Joint Committee on Human Rights to the UK Government sent today (11 April), raising serious concerns about current shortfalls in the draft Domestic Abuse Bill.
The letter highlights the failure of the Bill to offer protection for women in Northern Ireland and to address the specific challenges facing migrant women across the UK.
These failings raise questions about whether the Bill will meet the requirements of the Istanbul Convention, which aims to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women. The upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill is intended as a last step towards the UK ratifying the Convention.
Chiara Capraro, Women's Rights Manager at Amnesty UK, said:
"This letter sheds important light on the unequal treatment of women across the UK.
"The current Bill neglects both women in Northern Ireland and migrant women. It seems that in the Government's eyes, some lives matter more than others.
"This Bill is intended as a final step towards the UK ratifying the Istanbul Convention, but in its current form it not only falls short of the Convention's requirements but risks dividing women into those who count and those who don't.
"The UK must urgently ratify the Istanbul Convention and ensure the Bill offers equal protection for all women."
The Bill's failures on migrant women
Amnesty is part of the Step Up Migrant Women coalition, led by the Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS), which is working to ensure equal protection for migrant, refugee and BAME women survivors of domestic abuse who find it almost impossible to seek protection due to restrictions on access to refuges, and for fear that reporting violence to the police could end in detention or deportation. The Coalition's calls and concerns about the draft Bill can be found here.
Northern Ireland is excluded from the current draft of the Bill. It is vital the Government ensures all women, irrespective of the region of the UK they live in, are given the same legal protection from domestic violence or any other form of violence.
Lack of access to and criminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland has repeatedly been found to be a form of violence against women. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a near-total ban, which means that women in domestic violence or other vulnerable situations are often unable to travel to access this healthcare.