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Achieving gender equality, ending violence against women

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recently the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was held and Meg Munn MP attended as a member of the UK delegation. The conference brings together parliamentarians to study international problems and make recommendations for action. During a session on ‘Achieving gender equality, ending violence against women’ Meg stood with Alistair Burt MP to give a united view.

Meg Munn MP

When I was elected to parliament it was women MPs who spoke about domestic violence. Now it is women and men.

I am proud to stand united on this issue with my colleague; a man and a member of an opposing party. I am proud to have congratulated the Right Honourable William Hague, then Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on his work in this area; a man and a member of an opposing party. I am proud that my party has appointed a front bench spokesperson as the first ever parliamentary spokesperson on preventing violence against women and girls.

Laws are important, programmes of work are important but they are not enough.

Since 2001 at least 4 women in my constituency have been killed by a current or former partner. Across the UK although deaths are decreasing, on average 5 women and 2 men are killed every month by a current or former partner. Alongside these deaths there is untold misery in families experiencing violence.

This is a catastrophe for humanity. We need an even greater will and a greater effort to tackle this issue. We have to challenge the attitudes that lead to this violence, every human being everywhere must be respected and enjoy the basic human right of freedom from violence.​

 Alistair Burt MP

The UK has chosen to use its time in standing together: Government and Opposition, man and woman joined in common cause in support of the strong stance taken by this assembly and by parliamentarians everywhere towards gender equality and against violence towards women. And in support of the ideals of the UN HeForShe campaign.

In the past three years the UK, through its Foreign Secretary William Hague, championed the cause of Preventing Violence against Women in conflict. He challenged the assumption that just because sexual violence had always been a by-product of war, so it must remain. The piteous tales of women assaulted as spoils of war echo in our time from Bosnia, to Central Africa and the victims of the evils of Daesh in Syria and Iraq. His work, supported by Angelina Jolie, has raised the profile of the issue, to a UN Declaration signed by 122 nations and with worldwide commitments.

At the heart of our efforts today is the determination that casual assumptions of inequality and unacceptable violence are there to be challenged, wherever they might be, from field of conflict to the workplace and home. It was Solzenhitzen who wrote that the line dividing good and evil runs through every human heart, preventing any of us from being absolved of our obligations or responsibility.

So we must challenge other taboos. Forced and child marriage, female genital mutilation all derive from unacceptable cultural practices, inspired by men as a means of control. The Girl Summit in London this July brought together those prepared to challenge the assumptions and acquiescence behind these issues. The trafficking of women is another evil, and our Parliaments current consideration of a Modern Slavery Bill is our acknowledgement that not enough was being done in the UK to convict the perpetrators of this form of misery.

The championing of women’s education as a right, and as a means to ensure wider equality, has no greater exponent than Malala, whose story of courage in the face of the unacceptable violence of the Taliban has inspired the world. The UK is especially proud that this Nobel Laureate is hosted in the UK for recovery from the shooting which so nearly extinguished a talent which will surely brighten our world for decades to come.

Anger is rarely enough. We need to will the means of prevention. Yes, begin by challenging assumptions, but after that be practical. Share best practice. Share intelligence of those who run international criminal gangs. Build accountability structures, and assist those who must gather evidence to do their job. Protect human rights defenders. Champion women, and don’t let domestic and family violence slip off the agenda either.

But no society is immune from the attitudes that condone disrespect for women. In any community boys can grow up in the belief that they are special, and privileged. As a man I am here to say that is wrong, that men have a particular responsibility to ensure that our sons grow up respecting girls and women, and that we declare, in accordance with the HeForShe campaign, that this is no longer a woman’s issue.


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