Change society so women can live free from violence

Helen Duddy
Helen Duddy

Gender equality is at the root of violence against women and girls and the STUC will campaign to keep this issue at the heart of the agenda for all public bodies in Scotland. Delegates commended the Scottish Government’s “Equally Safe” strategy and the STUC pledged to lend its full support to groups campaigning to build a Scotland free from violence against women and girls.

Supporting the FBU motion, UNISON’s Helen Duddy told delegates that UNISON has campaigned against violence against women for many years, developing workplace policies to support women experiencing domestic abuse.

“It is devastating to hear in news reports on an almost daily basis about women being assaulted, beaten, raped and murdered. On average two women each week are killed by a current or former male partner. The figures are shocking – as is the fact that too often the law doesn’t effectively hold male perpetrators of violence to account.”

Helen welcomed the fact that the Scottish Government’s strategy ‘Equally Safe’ includes a comprehensive review of the justice system, informed by high profile cases of historic sexual abuse across the UK in recent years which have helped highlight major failings in securing justice for victims.

“This is an equalities issue,” said Helen. “And we are very clear in UNISON that this is a gendered issue, while absolutely recognising that men and boys can also be victims of violence.”

Helen also highlighted the effect of austerity cuts on women’s services and the ways in which women are worst affected.

“UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, in his speech to our women’s conference this year, listed numerous ways the cuts impact on women, including that cuts in tax credits cost women four times as much as men, cuts to childcare support cost women seven times as much and a child benefit freeze costs women five times as much” said Helen.

“Meanwhile women also bear the brunt of cuts to local government services and organisations like Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis are struggling to keep lifeline services open.”

Helen urged delegates work to change society to make sure women can live free from violence and pointed to UNISON’s new guide published last year, on why domestic abuse is a trade union issue and what we can do to support women, which includes a model workplace domestic violence and abuse policy.

“I am pleased that the Equally Safe strategy refers to workplaces and the need for many organisations, including employers and trade unions, to be engaged in tackling violence against women and girls.”

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