Northern Ireland is the only one of the four UK nations which does not have a specific strategy for addressing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Instead they have a gender neutral strategy for tackling domestic abuse. There have been calls recently in the NI Executive to create a separate strategy in NI for VAWG. The quote in the graphic which heads this post was the initial reaction of the NI’s Minister of Justice when this suggestion was first mooted. Legally she was on firm ground because Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 imposes a public sector duty to promote equality of opportunity between men and women.
She seems to have back-peddled since. The NI Executive has now put out a call for views: Consultation – New Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy and Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.
The Executive is proposing a two-tier strategy, one gender neutral and one for VAWG. We know where Consultations like this lead. You can be sure that a VAWG strategy will be forthcoming, despite the Minister of Justice’s initial (correct) words, above, and despite it being of questionable legality.
A campaign has been launched to use this opportunity to press for a parallel Strategy to address domestic abuse of boys and men in Northern Ireland (BAMS4NI, Boys And Men Strategy for Northern Ireland). If successful, the intention would be to use this as a springboard for such strategies in the other three nations (of which more below).
The approach is that, by creating a parallel strategy for boys and men, the NI Executive would retain compliance with the Section 75 public sector equality duty whilst also satisfying the demands for a VAWG strategy. You can help.
The call states that the audience is “anyone from any background”. Choose whichever of the three options below is most suitable for you…
Respond to the quick Public Survey
Respond to the quick Victims’ Survey
Submit a Detailed Response either online or by email. (It need not be all that detailed, but this option gives you the opportunity to make points that cannot be conveyed by multiple choice answers).
Recall that the thrust of the campaign is to present a case for a strategy for boys and men. My own “detailed response” is here, and you can plunder it for text or ideas if you wish.
The outlook for a strategy for boys and men in the other three UK nations is not as bleak as you might think.
In her 2020/21 annual report, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Vera Baird, stated that “The Home Office needs to offer a separate strategy for developing the rights and support services for men and boys who are victims of interpersonal violence of a physical or sexual nature”. The Victims’ Commissioner reiterated this position in September 2021, stating that “It may be that the scale of men and boys’ victimisation is not currently being fully considered”.
In Scotland, the governing Party, the SNP, included a commitment to produce a strategy for boys and men in their election Manifesto: “We will fund resources for services which support men who are victims of rape and domestic abuse, and we will establish a national strategy on ending intimate and sexual violence against men and boys which will sit in parallel with and complement the work of Equally Safe”.
In 2017 the CPS issued a Statement on male victims of crimes currently classified as VAWG
In 2019 the Home Office produced a Male Victims Position Paper.
In 2020 the Men and Boys Coalition published a briefing document on the case for a national strategy on intimate violence against men and boys.
The time is right.
Plug: The Equalogist is making a bid to be the de facto main men’s issues periodical in the UK. The latest edition is here. If you would like to subscribe (what do you have to lose?) email: email@example.com