The Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Bill (as it’s now called) has a new emphasis on violence against women and girls.
The Bill has been changed by the Welsh Government in a number of ways:
- a new section has been added that specifically refers to ‘violence against women and girls’ and defines this term. The short title of the Bill has also changed;
- a new section has been added to allow Welsh Ministers to place a duty on local authorities to report on how they are addressing gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence within their education institutions, including through sex education;
- the Bill has also been amended to require Ministers to consult before publishing or revising the national strategy. Similarly, local authorities and health boards must consult on local strategies;
- section 12 now include references to changing attitudes, commissioning services and workplace policies as examples of issues the Welsh Government may issue guidance on; and
- the title of the Ministerial Adviser has been changed to remove reference to ‘gender-based violence’.
No opposition amendments were agreed by the Committee, including Jocelyn Davies’s bid to remove the defence of reasonable punishment of children and Peter Black’s education proposals.
Campaigners welcomed the renewed focus on women, but are “exceptionally disappointed that so little progress has been made on education within this Bill at the end of Stage 2”.
The Committee published its stage 1 report on 14 November, and the debate took place in Plenary on 25 November 2014. It supported the general principles of the Bill, but made recommendations to the Welsh Government to amend the Bill to:
- use a rights-based approach to ensure a right to services for victims;
- refer to ‘violence against women’ in the Bill, so that the root causes of violence against women are tackled but that all victims can access services, regardless of gender;
- provide for compulsory education programmes on healthy relationships;
- establish minimum standards for local strategies;
- give the adviser independence from the Welsh Government and the power to conduct investigations;
- adopt the United Nations definition on ‘violence against women’ and the Home Office definition of ‘domestic violence and abuse’.
The Bill is now at Stage 3 and further amendments to it will be considered by all AMs in plenary on 3 March. For more information on the Bill, see this blog post.