Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

All cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involving under 18’s must be reported, new legislation introduced for England and Wales will stipulate.

The law will state that health care professionals, teachers and other social care workers will have to report cases of FGM within a month of becoming aware of it. Failure to comply could result in internal disciplinary or being referred to their professional organisation which could result in them being barred from practice and sacked.

The law will apply in all cases of known FGM in under 18s, whether it is disclosed by the victim or noticed by the professional.

The hope is that it will increase the ability to find perpetrators and this will lead to an increase in the rate of prosecutions. The move follows a public consultation which asked for opinion from a range of stakeholders including health care professionals, survivors of the practice and community groups.

We have a duty of care to protect young girls from this practice. Identifying the pathways that lead to FGM is an important step. And equipping front line staff with the right tools to identify and support victims or potential victims is a significant step in the right direction.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report last week which found that women who have endured violence in the home may have problems providing the evidence required to obtain a lawyer. And another report, published in the same week by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), found that cuts to legal aid exposed victims to a court room ordeal, some are even forced to endure cross examination by their abuser because they are increasingly forced to represent themselves in court due to legal aid cuts.

The CAB report, Victims of Abuse: Struggling for Support, found that victims give up on their fight for justice because regulations, “both in terms of evidence requirements and income or asset thresholds requiring financial contribution, leave large numbers of victims giving up on their rights to justice”.

It adds: “In some cases these restrictions expose victims to risk, leaving no alternative but to represent themselves in court facing their perpetrator.”

In other news, worrying statistics emerged last week as it was reported that young people are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population. Almost half a million, 498,000 young people aged 16-24 are without a job and thee unemployment rate sits at 14.4% for thus demographic.

The Tories accused Labour of talking negatively of the unemployment figures, however there is no way to negatively spin these facts which are shameful.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said there could be “no doubt” that there was a genuine issue with youth unemployment that needed to be addressed.

Failing to invest in this group of people is short sighted and a disgrace.

Victims of Violence better protected under new EU rules

Labour Party

As of last Sunday (11 January) victims of violence, especially those who have suffered from domestic abuse including violence and stalking,will be guaranteed protection from their perpetrator in any EU Member State. The new rules mean that any restraining orders issued in one member state will be applicable in every other EU Member State.

I did a short interview for BBC 5Live over the weekend on the issue which you can listen to again here:

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

A study by the Equality Trust think tank this week showed the impact of the ever-growing divide between rich and poor. The report suggested inequality costs our economy in the region of £39 billion a year, thanks to the social consequences of mental illness, crime, and poor life expectancy brought about by the income gap. The trust’s Executive Director, Duncan Exley, referred to the UK’s wealth inequality as a “chasm” and suggested the effect it has is to make people feel undervalued and unmotivated.

For those on the political right who see growing inequality as an economic driver – increasing ‘competitiveness’ and encouraging those at the bottom of society to ‘strive’ for more – the Equality Trust’s study presents a clear rebuff. As an MEP for London, a city which is, more than any other place in the UK, comprised of haves and have-nots, I believe this is an issue that needs far more attention. Addressing it would not require some kind of Marxist tonic but, as Exely points out, would merely a shift to the more inclusive and sustainable types of growth seen in other EU and OECD countries.

The start of the week, meanwhile, saw new figures released which suggest conviction rates for domestic violence remain terrifyingly low. House of Commons research found that only one in sixteen reports of domestic violence result in a conviction. Although reports have actually increased convictions have fallen during the same period – a worrying sign for women everywhere.

The figures come on the back of a study last week by Europe’s Fundamental Rights Agency, which found that the UK fared much worse than many other EU counties for levels of abuse. Austerity has certainly not helped victims of domestic violence, but a more fundamental change in our culture is required too, so that reports are taken seriously and young people – including young males – are taught from a young age about the issue. To break the cycles which perpetuate domestic abuse we need much more decisive interventions.

The Tories’ Real Record on Women’s Rights

Labour Party

I have been reading with some amazement recent statements on women from senior Tories, in particular David Cameron and Theresa May.  In David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party spring conference last month, he emphasised how “family-friendly” his party’s manifesto would be with the “right to flexibility to everyone with children”.  Last week Theresa May used the occasion of International Women’s Day to make a “pledge of support for women” in the Guardian online pages. 

All fine sentiments, but female voters beware!  Beyond Cameron and May’s words, there is little sense that there is any support for such policies in the core of the Tory party, or little evidence that the party leadership have the will to implement them.  Indeed, as I have blogged before, the voting record of Tory MEPs on women’s rights issues since David Cameron became leader is appalling, and exposes the fact that really nothing has changed in the Nasty Party.

For example, in 2006 Tory MEPs voted against a Report on combating violence against women, which included provisions on making rape within marriage a criminal offence, eliminating female genital mutilation, and encouraging cross border cooperation on so-called “honour” crimes, all matters mentioned by Theresa May in her Guardian article as commitments of a future Tory government. 

Yet it seems her MEPs do not share these concerns.  As recently as 2009, the Tory MEPs abstained in a vote urging member states to improve their national policies on combating violence against women, where the importance of recognising rape within marriage as a criminal offence was again underlined. 

On childcare, the EU adopted Employment guidelines as part of the EU’s Growth and Jobs strategy in 2008.  These guidelines included targets for flexible working, and access to childcare, surely a key element of Cameron’s pledge of the “right to flexibility to everyone with children”.  Again, this failed to get the Conservative MEPs’ backing.

In February of this year, the Tories voted against a report which included provisions on the need to tackle the gender pay gap – another issue Theresa May purports to be in favour of – and to link maternity and paternity leave.  The Tories in the European Parliament explicitly disagreed with the call to establish paternity leave across Europe, and against linking paternity and maternity leave to ensure fathers are able to take time off as well.  The report in question also contained a provision on one of David Cameron’s priority policies, combating persistent sexist stereotyping and degrading images.  Again the Tory MEPs voted against.

David Cameron said last month in his speech that as a parent he “dreads switching on the television and being bombarded with commercial messages”.  However, in 2008, the European Parliament discussed the issue of advertising and stereotypes in the media.  Member States were urged to ensure that marketing and advertising did not uphold discriminatory stereotypes, and consider the impact of advertising on children and teenagers’ body image and self-esteem, and yet 15 Tory MEPs still managed to vote against this measure.

I continue to be amazed at the disingenuousness of Cameron’s approach.  If he and his party were serious about family friendly policies and women’s rights, they would not let their MEPs vote so brazenly against these reports which recognise the importance of these issues. 

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, with a general election drawing near, the Tories suddenly remember that they need to try and appeal to women, who do make up over 50% of the electorate, but I would urge female voters not to fall for these well-scripted sentiments, when time and time again it can be shown that they are not supported by the Tories in any way that matters.

Tackling violence against women

Labour Party

Domestic violence is at last moving up up the agenda of the EU.  As the Swedes come to the end of their presidency of the European Council and the Spanish take over, violence against women looks set to be given a higher priority.  It is an area I have followed closely as an MEP, but unfortunately it is one for which there is still a lot more work to be done.

To highlight the importance of this subject matter, a public hearing entitled, ‘Toward an EU directive on violence against women’, moderated by two of my colleagues in the Women’s Rights Committee, Britta Thomsen and Eva-Britta Svensson was held yesterday in the European Parliament.  It proved to be a good initiative, providing an opportunity for parliamentarians and lobbyists to discuss the possibility of creating of a binding piece of legislation addressing violence against women.

Some significant legislative gains have already made in this area.  In 1979 the United Nations General Assembly introduced the first legally binding instrument relating to women’s rights: the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. This document posited that all forms of violence are unlawful, and reminded parties to the Convention to take action against perpetrators of violence against women.  Later, in 1993, came the Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence against   Women.  The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 listed the elimination of violence against women as one of its 12 strategy objectives.

The European Union also played its part with the launch of the Daphne initiative (later the Daphne programme) by the European Parliament which provided a basis for the financing of special projects to protect against violence against women, young people and children.

However, despite the measures listed above, violence against women remains a serious problem across Europe.  Since 1995 several European countries have launched large-scale surveys to ascertain the prevalence of violence against women.  While results do vary, overall figures suggest that around one quarter of all the women in the states surveyed had suffered abuse on at least one occasion during their adult lives.  Current studies also indicate that between 12 and 15% of all women have been in an abusive relationship after the age of 16.

Figures like these underline the real need to establish a binding European directive on violence against women.  Although it is true that we have already come along way from where we were, say, 50 years ago, in my view the elimination of violence against women will only be properly achievable when a directive is in operation, placing not just a moral obligation, but a legal obligation on states to eliminate violence in the home and elsewhere.  Moral indignation can only ever be effective where it is translated into political will and binding laws.

Violence based upon gender is not only harmful to victims, their children and their families, but it also affects whole communities.  The fact that domestic abuse typically takes place in private, behind closed doors, makes it all the more necessary to dedicate adequate resources to combat this debilitating crime.   Only when gender-based violence is adequately addressed will equality between men and women ever have a chance of becoming a reality.


Labour Party

Whatever faith I may have had that violence against women is being taken seriously has been been severely dented, if not demolished all together.


You will remember that I recently blogged on the anti-women abuse ad on You Tube starring Keira Knightley https://thehoneyballbuzz.com/?s=keira+knightley.

Well, key scenes will apparently have to be taken out before the advert, commissioned by Women’s Aid and named the “Cut”, before it can be shown on TV or in the cinema.  The ad, which  shows Kiera returing from a film set to her boyfriend accusing her of having an affair with a co-star, ends with with Kiera spawled on the floor and repeatedly kicked by her boyfriend.  It is this scene the censors find objectionable.


What is Clearcast, the advertising approval body thinking about?  Their view that the advert is too violent and can only be shown if the most violent scenes, ie those which are the most relevant, are cut, is a little short of a verbal and emotional attack on women.  Just as we were beginning to think some progress was being made on domestic violence this happens.


Women's Rights

Today I want to draw readers attention to a hard hitting but I hope effective campaign by Women’s Aid to stop domestic violence.

Keira Knightley has starred in a short two minute movie that brings home the sad reality of the violence many women face in their own homes.

Watch the video HERE – I think it speaks for itself. Please do all you can to stop this terrible crime and to help those suffering today. All the necessary information is provided by Women’s Aid on the same page as the video.


Letter published in Guardian today responding to article: Public gives more money to donkey sanctuary than abuse charities 23/04/08

charity, Guardian, Letters

Dear Editor,

It is a national disgrace that the UK thinks donkeys are in greater need of charity than the 1.5 million female victims of domestic abuse each year, two of whom die at the hands of their abuser each week.

Charities and support groups to help women and children escape and recover from violent abusers should be at the heart of every civilized society. To exist these services strongly rely on the public’s charity.

The UK has a strong tradition of charity and the government and the individual have a responsibility to make sure this money is directed towards the most deserving cause. Sadly this is not the case; over its 39 years the donkey sanctuary has helped 12,000 donkeys. In 2006 alone they received £20m in donations. That’s over £1,500 per donkey. Contrast that to the 1.5 million women abused last year and the combined income of all women’s abuse charities of £17m and it’s clear people need to rethink their standing orders.

Mary Honeyball MEP
Labour, women’s rights committee