The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Professor Rashida Manjoo, recently called for urgent action in the UK to address the lack of accountability regarding gender inequality and the adverse impacts of changes in funding and services.

Ms Manjoo’s press statement came after a 16-day mission to the UK, where she travelled across the country gathering information and evidence from state officials, civil society and survivors of violence.

Made Equal had the privilege of hosting the UN Special Rapporteur during this time, at an closed meeting which brought together testimonials and reports from a variety of organisations working on gender inequality issues that affect young women. Representatives of the Christian Muslim Forum, the English Collective of Prostitutes, Galop, Hollaback London, Stay Safe and Women Against Rape gave their reports in person to the UN Special Rapporteur, and presented a number of written testimonials, highlighting the range of challenges facing young women in their 20s and 30s. We were grateful for this opportunity to raise a variety of issues facing young women with Ms Manjoo, and to bring a diverse group of organisations to the table.

Made Equal welcomes the press statement presented by Ms Manjoo, and urge the UK Government to consider the problems highlighted and the recommendations made. Whilst the media response to her visit raised the issue of gender inequality in the UK, most media coverage failed to grasp the problems Ms Manjoo raised. Indeed, some of the reactions  to her visit have only confirmed the pervasiveness of gender inequality in the UK today.

The UN Special Rapporteur highlighted some positive campaigns, policies and practices that were in place. However, these have created only “isolated pockets of good practice”, and violence against women “remains a pervasive challenge” throughout the UK.

Her statement declared  that equality policies often do not consider the multiple discriminations facing women. It particularly highlighted the pressures caused by austerity, both on women as individuals and on the services designed to support them. The justice system in the UK was criticised for not being properly responsive to the needs of women and girl survivors of violence, and Ms Manjoo argued that evidence from civil society demonstrated that cuts to legal aid were preventing women survivors’ access to the justice system. Made Equal welcomes Ms Manjoo’s consideration of the needs of women in detention and we echo the concerns that her requests to visit Yarls’ Wood detention centre were repeatedly denied.

Made Equal particularly welcomes the recognition in the report that “violence against women needs to be addressed within the broader struggles against inequality and gender-based discrimination”. This raises concerns surrounding political, economic and social participation and also the narratives surrounding women and violence against women.

Made Equal urges the government to consider the suggestions made by Ms Manjoo and to take into full consideration its duty to eliminate violence against women and girls. We urge greater consideration of the impact of inequality on young women in their 20s and 30s, and call for greater inclusion of their voices and perspectives in discussions surrounding policy and change.

Here is a copy of the Press Statement by UN SR on violence against women, April 2014