On International Women’s Day, Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg issued a joint statement signaling the Government’s intention to  sign the Council of Europe’s Convention on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.

Their joint statement read:

“International Women’s Day is about reflecting on the strides that have been taken to give women more power, more choice and more control over their lives. But it is also about pushing for more to be done. Because the truth is, there is still a lot of work we need to do on the basics: ending violence against women and ensuring the physical security that is everyone’s fundamental right.

The UK already has some of the most robust protections against violence towards women in the world. But we know we’ve got to do better. So today we can confirm that we are working towards signing the Council of Europe’s Convention on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence before ratifying the treaty and incorporating it into UK law.

This agreement is unprecedented, and it is vital. Across Europe millions of women suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. In the UK nearly one million women experience domestic abuse each year. This is an utter scandal – and together we are going to work harder than ever to bring this violence to an end.

The agreement is not just a piece of paper. It’s going to lift the standards of protection for women across Europe, give greater support for victims and – crucially – bring many more perpetrators to justice.

By signing the Convention we would ensure that British offenders who commit their crimes abroad would still face justice in our courts. This is what we do in cases of murder and paedophilia. We believe rapists and abusive men from the UK who seriously harm women should face the same fate – wherever they commit the offence. Our message must be loud and clear: there must be nowhere to hide.”

This statement is much to be welcomed, as is the Government’s commitment to follow Scotland’s lead and make stalking a crime. It was good to hear a Prime Minister speak in defence of women’s right to safety and treat violence against women as the serious political issue it is.

However, “Working towards signing” is arguably what the UK has been doing for most of the past year, while seventeen other nations have overtaken us and ratified the Convention. It is also worth remembering that it is not so very long since British officials in Europe were being criticised for attempting to block those aspects of the Convention that treated violence against women as an issue of human rights.

The challenge is to ensure that this issue remains a political priority for the Government, not just on International Women’s Day, but on the other 364 days of the year.

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