It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate the Members for bringing forward this important debate, which is the first of its kind, from the Backbench Business Committee. Considering the number of years this place has been dominated by men, it is refreshing that the debate was led by a man. None the less, the fact that domestic violence continues to occur both here and internationally highlights that Governments of all nations must make a strong statement.
The white ribbon campaign is a prime opportunity to give men that voice and allow those such as my hon. Friend Gavin Newlands and Andrew Percy to have their say. It will take positive male role models such as Members of Parliament, sportsmen, celebrities and other high-profile figures in public life to condemn violence against women and girls and make a strong statement about what men’s role is in preventing and eradicating violence against women.
This conversation is not new. For years women have been speaking out loudly, and feminists have been condemned as outspoken, radical and extremist simply for saying something that should be common sense to all of us: violence against women and girls should not and cannot be tolerated. Men and boys need to take an active role on their contribution to violence, but we also have to accept that it goes the other way. Many Members have mentioned that there are occasions—they are few—where women are the perpetrators of violence, so it is about educating girls and boys, and men and women about their role and their relationships with one another, because as we have heard this is not a women’s issue; it is a human rights issue. I am glad that this debate is happening today.
The first priority is to ensure that our educators and local figures are making that strong statement condemning violence in all forms. One of the most alarming statistics I have read has been touched on but not covered. The title of the report published by Women’s Aid this year is “Nineteen Child Homicides”, which brings home the wide range and impact that domestic violence can have on women and girls and children. Violence does not happen just to women; it affects fathers, husbands, sons and brothers. In fact, perhaps no member of a family is untouched by violence, and that is why it will take all voices across the community to advocate the removal of violence in all forms.
We have heard a lot about different laws and policies as well as the law of unintended consequences of some of the policies that are affecting women’s lives, which needs some acknowledgment from the Government. While much of the debate has centred around heterosexual relationships, statistics show that there is the exact same level of violence in same-sex relationships. Broken Rainbow has sought to highlight in its campaign that domestic violence is not unique to one relationship. It happens across all relationships and across all genders and sexualities.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and the hon. Members for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) and for Brigg and Goole for securing the debate and highlighting this truly important issue. I hope that we will go some way towards eradicating violence.