Regular readers may recall my post of February 2022 relating to BAMSNI (Boys And Men Strategy for Northern Ireland). This refers specifically to the issue of domestic abuse. The background to that last post was that Northern Ireland is the only one of the four UK nations that does not currently have a specific Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. Instead, Northern Ireland have so far pursued a gender neutral approach, supported in this stance by Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 which imposes a public sector duty to promote equality of opportunity between men and women.
That last post warned of the pressure being placed on the Executive to adopt a specific VAWG strategy, a move that – on its own – would put men and boys out in the cold, as usual. The post made readers aware of the campaign that was underway to address that risk by pressing for a parallel strategy for the protection of men and boys from domestic abuse.
This post is to make readers aware of developments in that campaign – and to offer an invitation to a forthcoming seminar at which the campaign’s progress and approach will be presented.
A short brief that summarises key messages from the campaign can be found here.
The full report that the campaign has just published can be found here.
The focus of this campaign output so far is to identify the gaps in support and human rights protections in relation to male victims of domestic abuse.
The campaign report makes a number of detailed recommendations to address the identified gaps. The bottom line is that the campaign calls for a parallel strategy to address the issue of male victimisation – parallel, that is, with the strategy for women and girls, preparation of which is in progress within the Executive (or would be if there were currently an Executive). The campaign report concludes thus,
“The NI Equality Commission have called on the Executive to adopt ‘gender specific’ approaches to tackle the causes of violence experienced by women and men (my emphasis). VAWG strategies in other regions have been shown to contribute to the marginalisation and invisibilisation of male victims and there remains considerable confusion in relation to how The Executive’s ‘gender specific’ and ‘gender neutral’ strategies will align.
During the 2022 Call For Views on the development of the two aligned strategies, numerous advocates for male victims urged the NI Executive to develop a male specific strategy or comparable action to mitigate against adverse impacts.
We believe that positive action is necessary because male victims also face unique and sex specific challenges such as: fear of not being believed; losing their children; stigma if their perpetrator is female; victim blaming if their perpetrator is male; and discrimination from some domestic abuse service providers.
We also believe that a male victims strategy is required because aspects of the Department of Justice / Health’s ‘gender neutral’ approach can be shown to be gender neutral in name only. This means that male victims have to navigate: A heavily sex segregated service infrastructure; significant gaps in service; exclusion from funding streams; suspicion, stereotyping and forms of sex discrimination that have been illegal in the entire UK since 1976.”
The seminar will be held online on Thursday 27th April at 6pm to 8pm (BST). You can book to attend, free, at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tackling-domestic-abuse-the-northern-ireland-model-tickets-564926318827. There will be a Q&A in the second half.
Whilst this campaign is focussed on Northern Ireland, the hope is that it will provide impetus to similar parallel strategies in the GB nations.
The insupportable nature of the UK Government’s position on intimate violence against men and boys came to a head last year with their publication of a policy statement titled Supporting Male Victims of Crimes Considered Violence Against Women and Girls, a title which invited – and received – ridicule. I blogged on it, as did many others, including We Are Survivors. The Government’s current position is collapsing under the weight of its own absurdity. It’s time to devise parallel strategies for men and boys across the UK as a whole.