Since the Conservatives became the government on 11 May 2010, at least 1,920 women have been killed by men in the UK

In the 5,147 days since the Conservatives became the government on 11 May 2010, at least 1,909 women have been killed by men, that’s an average of one woman dead at the hands of a man in the UK every 2.7 days.  

Both the Conservatives and Labour, one of which will form the next government, have rightly identified violence against women and girls as a strategic priority in their manifestos.

The Conservatives have pledged to strengthen laws around sexual and domestic violence and abuse. Femicide Census data tells us that of the men who killed 381 women in the UK in the three years from 2020 to 2022, at least 56% had known histories of violence against women, and that of these, 21 men were on bail, 14 men were on licence, and 16 men had been served injunctions (of these 3 were also subjected to bail or licence conditions) when they killed a woman. These men knew that they were acting outside the law.  Laws in themselves are not enough, public services must be well-enough resourced to implement laws and those with responsibilities for addressing men’s violence against women, girls and children must themselves be fully committed.

Over the last 14 years of a Conservative government, thousands of violent men have been allowed to get away with domestic violence and coercive abuse, rape of and sexual assault against women, girls and children.  In the year ending March 2023 alone, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were 195,315 sexual offences recorded by the police (and where the actual incidents of sexual violence are much higher because most do not report) yet prosecutions are at an all-time low of 2% of all reported rapes. Abusive men are hiding in plain sight and have been allowed to feel untouchable because there is no effective sanction against them, or indeed sanctions against the authorities that could have stopped these men committing further violent acts when the risk was known.

In the 5,147 days since the Conservatives became the government on 11 May 2010, at least 1,920* women have been killed by men, that’s an average of one woman dead at the hands of a man in the UK every 2.7 days.

More than half of those women (57%) were killed by a current or former partner, that’s one woman’s life taken by a current or former partner every five days under the Conservative government. Nine percent were women who were killed by their own sons, an average of almost one a month. Another 99 women (five percent of all women killed) were killed by other family members. 191 women, ten percent of women killed by men, were killed by a stranger, just over one woman every month.

66 percent of women killed by men were either killed in their own home or the home they shared with their killer. In 45 percent of cases, a knife or sharp instrument was used to kill.

Labour says that it is proud of their Equality Act and the rights and protections it affords women; and that they will continue to support the implementation of its single-sex exceptions. The Act came into force in October 2010, seven months before the Conservatives came to power. We welcome that the Conservatives have said that they will not allow the word ‘woman’ to be erased by health services but they have spectacularly failed to do this whilst in government. We also welcome that the Conservative manifesto says that they will introduce primary legislation to clarify that the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act means biological sex. We believe that under the Act, sex was always intended to mean biological sex but this interpretation has been allowed to become muddied; not least by Judge Lady Haldane’s ruling that the definition of sex was “not limited to biological or birth sex” in Scotland in December last year. It is therefore critical that this clarification is made.

The knowledge that sex means biological sex, must however go beyond the Equality Act. If we can’t record who is a woman and who is a man, we cannot present the evidence to demonstrate who does what to whom and with what impact, nor make the case for the allocation of resources. We’ll never end men’s violence against women and girls if we pretend that sex is not a simple matter of fact. Labour promises to halve violence against women and girls in a decade and recognises misogyny as one of the root causes of violence against women and girls. The Conservative manifesto makes clear that they know who is a woman and who is a man, but it doesn’t mention the word misogyny even once. Neither party adequality links men’s violence against women and girls to sex inequality.

Labour says it will get knives off the streets. But in 85 percent of killings when men used a knife or sharp instrument to end a woman’s life, the attack took place in her home, the home she shared with the perpetrator, another residential address or a care home. In comparison, 11 percent took place in a street or public space. Femicide is not simply homicide with a female victim, it is about recognising that the circumstances of woman-killing are different and require woman-centred interventions.

State inertia, where platitudes, policies and the implementation of the law are not backed up with funding and action, and are not grounded in data that is disaggregated by sex, will get us nowhere. Mistakes and bare-faced indifference are exposed – not by a proactive state seeking to end sex inequality and end men’s violence against women and girls – but by the tireless battle of families and their lawyers to hold the state to account. Simple ‘just do your job’ failures have fatal consequences.

After 14 years of Conservative government, misogyny, sexism and racism are rife in state institutions, the Domestic Abuse Act does not protect all women equally, public services are under resourced, and specialist woman-led  independent services for women are under-funded and undervalued.

Femicide remains one of the few crimes committed by men against women where chances of a conviction are high. It should not take a woman’s corpse for a man to be held to account for violence against or abuse and coercion of women.

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have had the courage to name men as the protagonists of ‘violence against women and girls. Neither use the word ‘femicide’ in their manifesto. This squeamish reticence reminds us that men hold power and that women are denied the right to make sure the state acts in our interests. A government strategy to end men’s violence against women and girls must be ambitious and wide ranging, it cannot shy away from inconvenient truths, such as the reality of sex and sex differences. Otherwise, women will continue to be victimised and killed, and we will continue the cycle of legal challenges, of inquiries and reviews. Meanwhile valuable insight into complacency, inertia and ineptitude will continue to be made fleeting and inconsequential.

 

*As identified by 9 June 2024, and includes cases of women killed between 2022 and 2024 which have not yet completed criminal justice processes but where a man has been charged. 

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