International Women’s Day 2016: Women are not safe if funding is not secure
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Today, International Women’s Day, is a day when leaders worldwide are asked to commit to gender parity.
For the two women a week in the UK killed by a current or former partner, “women’s issues” cannot be cordoned off into one day out of 365. A pledge made for one day a year is not enough when every day women risk death at the hands of abusive partners. Token pledges and feel-good gestures amount to nothing when the government is ripping funding away from domestic and sexual violence support services, leaving them running on a shoestring or forced to close. Many services that currently remain open don’t know whether they will still be open in a year’s time.
Hardest hit are the organisations that support women in minority groups. Specialist domestic violence services set up to support women of colour, for example, have taken decades to build and are disappearing at an alarming rate. Between 2010 and 2014, such services decreased by 17%. Imkaan, who run services for BAME groups, have been forced to close two of their six specialist refuges. Nevertheless, our government refuses to secure funding for specialist domestic violence services for BME women.
Usually on International Women’s Day, countries celebrate progress in women’s rights. However, with its austerity measures, our government has turned back the clock on progress. By cutting money for domestic violence support services the government is sending the UK back 40 years to a time when domestic violence was seen as a “private” issue as opposed to the responsibility of the state.
This is why Sisters Uncut, the direct action feminist group of women and non-binary people spend every day fighting for ring-fenced funding for domestic violence services.
International Women’s Day falls just a week away from the Chancellor’s first budget of 2016. George Osborne will deliver his budget on the 16th March 2016, an incredibly important day for survivors of domestic violence. The future of domestic violence services (and the women they support) depend on secure funding.
Since 2010, George Osborne’s budgets have put more and more women and non-binary people in danger. He has created funding chaos for domestic violence services. Currently, in Osborne’s Britain, a woman’s ability to flee life-threatening violence depends on her postcode. This is all because domestic violence services are funded by local councils, but since Osborne has halved council budgets, services and the women they support face a precarious future. The only solution to the mess he has created is to ringfence funding for domestic violence support services at a national level.
In 2009, 1 in 3 local authorities had no domestic violence service. Since then, the sector has been cut by over 30%, leaving areas like Devon without a government funded refuge. The refuges that do still exist are now so over-capacity that they are turning away 1 in 3 women. That’s 112 women and 84 children a day in 2014. Where do those women go?
Domestic violence support services need secure, long-term funding. Broken Rainbow, the UK’s only specialist LGBT domestic violence helpline, has guaranteed funding for another year. What happens to it then? What happens to all the people facing violence to rely on it for safety?
In his last budget, Osborne promised the totally inadequate amount of £40m to the women’s sector. At the time, Sisters Uncut called this announcement what is was, “ little more than a sticking plaster over a haemorrhage”. In the same budget, Osborne also committed £150m to a special pothole fund. This International Women’s Day is time to remind George Osborne that his cost savings in the domestic violence sector come at a high price for women living under the daily threat of violence.
This International Women’s Day, we call on George Osborne to deliver a long-term economic plan for women’s safety. Women are not safe if funding is not secure. George Osborne must ring-fence funding for domestic violence services on 16th March.