Women’s rights are human rights: how the ‘Bill of Rights’ harms women

Today (8e September 2022), the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), Rights of Women, Center for Women’s Justice and Southall Black Sisters released a report on why the government’s proposed ‘Bill of Rights’ would harm human rights women and survivors. (large print version here).

The government’s plan to abolish our Human Rights Act and replace it with a so-called ‘Bill of Rights’ has been dubbed the ‘Abolition of Rights Bill’ because contrary to its name , it would deprive us of our hard-won rights to protection and justice. . These plans were widely condemned by a wide cross section of society.

While reports this week indicate that the Duties Removal Bill has been put on hold for the time being, the government plans to rewrite and potentially make the Bill’s proposals worse before reintroducing it in Parliament.

Women’s organizations and experts on violence against women and girls (VAWG) are particularly concerned that the bill will deprive victims and survivors of the ability to seek justice and be held accountable for institutional failures. meant to protect them.

A prime example of this is the case of John Worboys, known as the ‘black cab rapist’, who was able to rape over 100 women with impunity after police failed to take seriously or properly investigate reports of rape of women.

These systematic failures were exposed by survivors in a legal challenge in which EVAW was an intervenor. The High Court ruled that the human rights of the victims had been violated. Human rights law has played a key role in holding the police to account for these failings.

This new resource compiles women’s experiences as well as the latest expert analysis on why the government’s proposals represent a direct attack on women’s rights.

In addition to holding police to account for their many failures to respond to rape and so-called honour-based abuse, the resource describes how human rights law has helped victims and survivors to access support from their local authority, and challenge schools and the military for failings in sexual violence.

Case supplied by Southall Black Sisters

“I believe Banaz would still be alive today if the police had listened to his claims from the start. But no. The authorities let my sister down. The police did not listen to Banaz in the last months of his short life. – Bekhal, sister of Banaz Mahmod

Banaz Mahmod was murdered at the age of 20. Her father, uncle and five male cousins ​​were convicted of her murder and/or related crimes. In the seven weeks before her death, Banaz went to the police five times to get help to save her life. informing them that she was at high risk of so-called honour-based violence. His reports have been systematically dismissed.

After his death, Banaz’s sister Bekhal relied on the Human Rights Act to bring a civil action against the Metropolitan Police for their failure to take action that could have prevented his murder, in the purpose of having the police acknowledge its shortcomings during the period. leading to the death of his sister and in the hope that others would not fail in the same way in the future. Police agreed to a settlement for an undisclosed sum.

Case provided by Police Spies Out of Lives

“I needed answers and taking this case against the police was a way to fight back, to regain control of my life story. The other reason we brought it up was to try to make sure it didn’t happen again. At first it meant that no other woman should be abused like we were, but it grew to be much broader than that, over time. –Kate Wilson

From 2003 to 2009, Mark Kennedy was deployed by the Metropolitan Police to gather intelligence on political activists. As part of the operation, he tricked the women under his watch into intimate and sexual relationships. Kate Wilson is one of those women. In 2010, Kate received a phone call saying that this man she shared her life with had never existed.

In September 2021, Kate Wilson won her decade-long legal battle over the use of secret police against protest movements. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which hears cases involving the state’s use of secret investigative powers, has found the Metropolitan Police have committed a ‘formidable list’ of basic human rights abuses under five different sections of the Human Rights Act. The court not only ruled that the relationship violated Wilson’s human rights, but that the Metropolitan Police violated their affirmative duties to protect women from the risk of their rights being similarly violated.

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:

“While we are pleased with reports that the so-called Bill of Rights has been shelved, we must remain vigilant. We know the government is planning to rewrite and potentially make the Bill’s proposals worse, before reintroducing it in Parliament. The fight is not over.

The VAWG sector has long relied on human rights law to hold institutions to account for some of the most appalling and systemic failures to victims and survivors. It is unthinkable that at a time when our criminal justice system is so broken, it would pursue such regressive plans. Women’s right to be free from violence must be a priority.

Women’s rights are human rights and we must not take our human rights law for granted. All who believe that victims and survivors should have access to justice are invited to join us and save our human rights.




Media contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, EVAW: [email protected] 07960 744 502