Two Saturdays ago I met the wonderful Rachel Nye on a writing course, in the pub afterwords, we were chatting about our lives outside of writing, and Rachel told me about the volunteer campaign group she runs, IC Change. It has one simple mission, get the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention – which Dr Marsha Scott describes as ‘the very best piece of violence against women policy that has been written, ever, anywhere’. Four days later I had cleared my schedule, and was filming with a room full of brilliant passionate women, and men, campaigning to end violence against women.
After being one of the member countries to help draw up the comprehensive framework and policy to do this back in 2012, the UK Government has been promising to ratify the Istanbul Convention (bring into law), since then. Four years have passed, and despite successfully implementing parts of the IC (around FGM and forced marriage), the government is yet to fulfil it’s promise. Meaning thousands of women in the UK are suffering needlessly from domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of gender violence, such as coercive control or revenge porn. Currently, due to cuts, many women are unable to access the support they need, whether that be a helpline, a refuge or counselling – which leaves some women unable to escape their perpetrators as there’s just nowhere to go. It doesn’t have to be this way.
On December 16th, there is an opportunity to start the conversation again, as Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has tabled a Private Members Bill, which if successful, will move the convention on to the next stage for ratification. To be successful, 100 MPs need to turn up and vote in favour. This doesn’t sound like it’s a tall order, seeing as there are hundreds of MPs who would surely be supportive of such an important issue – however, due to the quirks of parliament, the PMB is being presented on a Friday morning in December, a time when most MPs are in their constituencies meeting with schools and businesses etc.
This is where we can make an actual difference – if enough people write to their MPs, and ask them to attend parliament and support the Private Members Bill on the 16th, then this could still be successful. MPs respond best to personal communication, be that an email, a letter, a tweet, or even an in person meeting / phone-call.
This is your call to action – write to your MP today, this evening, now. It’s been made really simple, the IC Change website even has a template you can use, and adapt, and there’s a website you can use to look up your local MP’s contact details.
This needs to happen now, this is a roadmap to real change, the Istanbul Convention is a genuine opportunity to actively change the lives of millions of women, both in the UK, and across the globe, and stop violence against women.
Spread the word, ask your friends, family and colleagues to write to their MP, and let’s bring a bright spark to politics in 2016 – whatever your political views, supporting an end to violence against women crosses all political parties, age, class, race, gender and religions. LEt’s #ChangeHerstory
IC Change website: www.icchange.co.uk
About Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s Private Members Bill: www.icchange.co.uk/pmb