In response to the UK Home Secretary’s call for evidence regarding the planned review of the Strategy on Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) this spring, Fearless Futures submitted a report using our unique analysis and frameworks to unpack the root causes of this systemic violence, and offer policy solutions that directly tackle sexist institutions. You can read the full report on our website, but here are some important takeaways:
Our research emphasises that violence against women is not merely about injury incurred by individual women. Rather it refers to a systematic abuse, which aims to sustain asymmetric gender relations and gendered organisations of power, to keep women in their place of subordination and sustain mens’ positional power across society. Violence against women and girls is sexist and patriarchal violence, and is as such about women/girls experiencing violence/being the target of violence because they are women/girls.
This is a historically rooted phenomenon, which is perpetuated through structures in our society - laws, policies and institutional practices - and finds social approval in notions of patriarchal masculinity, to which men and boys are socialised and encouraged. The continuum of violence against women, as a method of sustaining power and control, distinguishes it from “random” or ‘individual’ acts of violence.
A systemic approach which understands all forms of sexist violence on a continuum makes clear that a criminal justice approach which seeks to respond to violence after the fact, punishing only those violences which are criminalised, cannot effectively disrupt and tackle the root causes of VAWG. We suggest that the government VAWG strategy should focus attention and resources on education and awareness raising. We agree with the Government statement that “It is our collective responsibility to identify and tackle oppressive attitudes, patterns of behaviour and practices which try to achieve power and control over victims and survivors of these crimes”; the government is uniquely positioned to embed education and awareness raising in policy and institutions, to this end.
While all women and girls may experience sexist and patriarchal violence, women who are also targeted by other intersecting systems, experience sexist and patriarchal violence that is compounded by intersecting systems. As a result, those women who are the most marginalised face increased risk and should be prioritised in the governments VAWG strategy, with specific solutions/interventions drawn up that speak directly to this lived reality.