May accused of treating women as 'fools'

Treated like fools? Theresa May is accused of presiding over a massive reduction in services.
Treated like fools? Theresa May is accused of presiding over a massive reduction in services.

By Ian Dunt

Labour has gone to war with the government over women's support services as International Women's Day is celebrated across the world.

Shadow women and equalities minister Yvette Cooper replied to Theresa May's promise of creating more rape support centres by accusing her of "treating women like fools".

She added: "Giving with one hand whilst wrecking existing support with the other is not fair on vulnerable women across the country."

The row comes as domestic violence charity Women's Aid warned that over half the services helping victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence could face closure due to government cuts.

It estimated that 60% of refuge services and 72% of outreach services had no funding agreement from April 1st.

"We are particularly concerned that the removal of ring-fenced funding for Supporting People last year coupled with cuts to local authority budgets has created a situation where councils across the country are making disproportionate cuts and rash decisions at the expense of protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society," chief executive Nicola Harwin said.

"It has taken 40 years to build the current national network of services which enables us to take women out of their area when needed to protect them and their children from their violent partner."

The charity said that two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner.

Media reports also allege that UK officials are frustrating members of the Council of Europe with a last-minute intervention into the two-year-old negotiations on the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.

The British government acted to demand that violence against women does not classify as a violation of human rights.

It is also angling for the document to only apply during peace time and not during armed conflict.

SNP international development spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford, who is taking part in an International Women's Day march in Westminster today, said: "These revelations are all the more shameful emerging on International Women's Day and expose shocking hypocrisy on the part of the UK government.

"On the day that the Home Office publish an action plan to end violence against women and girls, behind the scenes they are trying to water down an international agreement to protect women. It is disgraceful double standards."

Separate research commissioned by a coalition of women and human rights groups revealed today that six in ten young women believed they had personally experienced sexist remarks or behaviour, including being whistled at, touched inappropriately or discriminated against because of gender.

Both the Home and Foreign Office were busy trying to win some positive publicity out of the International Women's Day, which is celebrating its centenary this year.

The Home Office published a 'Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls' action plan, alongside the government's response to Baroness Stern's review into the handling of rape complaints.

Meanwhile, foreign secretary William Hague pledged to put women's rights at the centre of the government's response to the political turmoil in the Middle East.

"The British government will support all those working to achieve more open societies in the Middle East," he said.

"We believe this should include a particular emphasis on the economic, political and social empowerment of women."


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