Jane Hutt MS, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
The killing of Sarah Everard has sent a shock wave through us all and re-ignited a national conversation about women’s safety.
It has reminded us that, while stranger abduction may be rare, violence against women and girls is far too common. It has also highlighted the impact violence and abuse has on the daily lives of women. For too long, harassment and violence has conditioned women’s lives.
The Welsh Government has always been clear about our ambition to end violence and abuse against women and girls. The public outcry following Sarah’s death is a wake-up call to us all. We must honour Sarah’s life by making changes to society and culture so all women and girls can live fear free.
As Yasmin Khan, our National Advisor has said, we need a culture change and there is no quick fix. We need to engage everyone in that change – women, children and men to ensure that power isn’t abused and lives are lived fear free.
I was deeply disturbed by the scenes on Clapham Common over the weekend. The hurt, anger and grief felt by many deserved an opportunity to be voiced. I welcome the independent investigation launched by the Home Secretary. Meanwhile, I will have conversations with Welsh police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners, to ensure we respond appropriately, while continuing to protect everyone’s public health during this ongoing pandemic.
Vigils were also held across Wales over the weekend. There was a police presence at the physical events but they were peaceful and passed without incident.
We continue to work in partnership with specialist services to raise awareness of the inequality and safety issues faced by women and girls and to end all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
We will also continue to work with Welsh police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners, public safety boards and the Crown Prosecution Service to instil confidence in victims to report incidents of abuse and violence when they occur and to hold those who abuse to account.
We will work with partners to strengthen the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Strategy to address the violence experienced by women and girls in the home, community and workplace. It will drive forward Ask and Act and Don’t be a Bystander training and awareness programmes and support for specialist VAWDASV services.
I look forward to the contribution the new curriculum and the recently-passed Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill will make to raising awareness about healthy relationships. Relationships and sexuality education will be a statutory part of the curriculum for all children up to the age of 16 and will help young people to challenge toxic attitudes and behaviours.
The Welsh Government will continue to fund the Hafan Cymru Spectrum project promoting the importance of healthy relationships in schools and raising awareness of VAWDASV through training for teachers and governors in our schools.
We must not miss any opportunity to deal with these issues. The UK Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill must make the strongest possible contribution to protecting women. And I call on the UK Government to strengthen the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to ensure the criminal justice system protects women and girls, while also enabling people to continue to express their concerns freely.