The Joint Committee on Human Rights has responded positively to concerns raised by Humanists UK about gaps in protections proposed under the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, and advised the Government to consider expanding the definition of domestic abuse.
In its submission to the Committee’s inquiry, Humanists UK raised concerns that the current proposed definition of the domestic abuse does not adequately cover the types of religious abuse and coercive control experienced by apostates and those within highly controlled or isolated religious communities, where the abuser may not necessarily be a family member and could be a member of the community, such as a religious leader who can exert significant control and influence over individuals.
The Joint Human Rights Committee has now written to the Minister for Women, Victoria Atkins, highlighting some of the problems with the current definition and how some victims would fall through the gaps under the proposed policy.
The committee said: ‘there are some concerns amongst certain stakeholders that the definitions excludes some forms of domestic abuse. In particular the definition of ‘personally connected’ may leave gaps in protection, as there may be some cases where individuals are living with their abuser and suffering the same type of abuse as that listed in the proposed definition, but cannot access the same remedies due to a lack of an intimate partnership or family connection. There is, therefore, some support for an expanded definition to ensure protections for individuals suffering from different forms of abuse.’
Humanists UK is also concerned that the Bill does not extend to Northern Ireland, contrary to the initial envisioning of the Bill, leaving victims of abuse in one part of the the UK arbitrarily with less protection.
This omission is significant as the Bill’s failure to extend these protections, as well as address known violations of discrimination against women in Northern Ireland, specifically legal access to abortion, means that the UK is unable to ratify the Convention on the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women – one of the central purposes of the Bill. The Joint Human Rights Committee requested the Government to give a valid reason for the exclusion of Northern Ireland given these considerations.
Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We welcome the Joint Committee’s letter to the Government on its scrutiny of this draft Bill and look forward to its full report. The concerns it has raised regarding the inclusion of Northern Ireland and the statutory definition of domestic abuse closely align with those we raised with the Committee and the Government over the course of the drafting of this Bill and we will continue to push for these changes to be made.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 324 3065.
Read the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ letter to the Government: https://www.parliament.uk/documents/joint-committees/human-rights/correspondence/2017-19/Correspondence-from-JCHR-Chair-Draft-domestic-abuse-bill-100419.pdf
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At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.