Content warning for discussion of rape statistics and barriers to women’s safety, this post will look at cuts to services such as refuges for women living with domestic violence.
On Wednesday 10th December 2014 we gathered to protest in St Peter’s Square about the need to stop the cuts, in particular the cuts to women’s services in Manchester. I ran on my lunch break to attend the protest, and was inspired by the women speaking up and criticising the lack of funds for the North West in particular.
With the cuts to funding hitting Manchester hard, here are a few key points from headlines:
Manchester Women’s Aid could be forced to shut down – with the closure of all its refuges in the city – as part of cuts which Manchester council has to find after central government slashed its funding. The domestic abuse charity has been asked to look at the impact of cuts of up to 40pc of the £490,000 it receives from the town hall. –Manchester Evening News, Nov 26th, 2014.
This article by The Guardian looks at the broader picture in the UK of cuts to women’s services. Sandra Horley, chief executive of the charity Refuge, criticises the shift in focus to male victims.
In the UK, sexual violence and abusive relationships disproportionally effect women and girls, with one in five women raped or experiencing attempted rape as reported by the government investigation which you can download here, and two women a week die at the hands of their ex or current partner.
One focus of the protest was the impact of the cuts on refuges:
And one case that was referenced was that of a woman charged bedroom tax for having a panic room within her home. Panic rooms are made available to women and children within their homes so that they have a safe space and are not made homeless, this is under the Sanctuary scheme which when reviewed in 2010 was found to be successful in decreasing levels of homelessness for domestic abuse victims. See Guardian recap of this case here, and they quote:
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Sanctuary schemes are created to keep extremely vulnerable women and children safe, at a time when they are trying to rebuild their lives after surviving domestic violence. An investment has been made in keeping these women safe and to move these families out of their homes is a false economy as it will cost further money to provide security as the new property, and this may provide a reduced level of safety, putting them at risk.
The Lesbian Immigration Support Group were present and spoke passionately, a report on women’s experiences of Yarl’s Wood has just been released and can be found here: http://refugeewomen.com/research2/
This protest was on the day of #HumanRightsDay, a time to reflect on how far we’ve come and how many challenges we still face as a worldwide community to deliver on equal rights for women and girls. Dave Zirin calls it a: ‘global system of brutalised misogyny’. What we see in the UK is echoed across the globe, in some places tragically awful, in some places better to the point that we can make pretty headlines about how great it is to be a woman in Sweden. However, no matter where you go you find women’s autonomy, their right to walk the streets, to live in their homes, to own their own sexuality, is discriminated against and shut down. The severity of shut down differs, but the message is the same, that right is not yours. Time and again we see this; this protest is part of a larger dialogue around what we need to prioritise, we begin here.