United Kingdom: UN Envoy, UK Police Inspectorate Find Women at High Risk of Domestic Violence
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 3:35 PM

The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women traveled to the United Kingdom for the first time in April where she found nearly 1.6 million British women reported experiencing sexual or domestic violence in the past year. Approximately 30% of UK women reported surviving domestic violence at some point in their lives since the age of 16. The Rapporteur, Rashida Manjoo, also criticized what she saw as the pervasive and overtly “sexist” culture in Britain that creates negative stereotypes about women. The Rapporteur’s visit comes on the heels of a March report by the British Constabulary that found at least 58,000 women a year were at risk of death or serious harm in the UK due to the “alarming and ineffective” police response to domestic abuse across the country.

In a separate report issued at the conclusion of her 16-day fact-finding mission to the UK, the Special Rapporteur noted that the UK had taken soem important steps towards making “violence against women a priority.” This included ratifying the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (“Istanbul Convention”), and updating its domestic violence laws to include a more comprehensive definition of domestic violence and enhanced protective orders. However, she said that the country’s approach had produced "isolated pockets of good practice … not applied consistently throughout the country". The Rapporteur expressed particular concern about funding cuts to services and other violence prevention and intervention programs that put women and girls at increased risk of violence. 

The British Constabulary report also noted the inconsistent response to violence against women in the UK. Police received over 1 million calls related to domestic violence last year, and domestic violence represented 8% of all reported crimes in the UK, yet only 8 of 43 police forces were effectively handling cases of domestic abuse and ensuring victim safety. 

Compiled from: Sherwood, Harriet, UN special rapporteur criticises Britain's 'in-your-face' sexist culture, The Guardian (April 14, 2014); Casciani, Dominic, Police fail domestic abuse victims - HMIC report, BBC News (March 27, 2014); Manjoo, Rashida, Special Rapporteur on violence against women finalizes country mission to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland and calls for urgent action to address the accountability deficit and also the adverse impacts of changes in funding and services, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (April 15, 2014).