Yesterday, (Wednesday) I was pleased to celebrate International Women's Day in Parliament by honouring the work of a number of charities and support services set up to advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. One of these was a campaign launched by the Bishop of Gloucester; the first female Bishop to sit in the House of Lords, who is a passionate campaigner on the issue of domestic violence.
Many readers may be aware that when I first became an MP, I set up a charity to support the victims of domestic violence in Solihull and Birmingham. Sadly the charity folded through a failure to generate sustainable levels of funding, but Solihull does now have a refuge run by Women’s aid as a lasting legacy to provide for victims.
Whilst anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, it is still the case that women are the most vulnerable to this type of crime and that here in the UK, around two women lose their lives to DV each week.
The Government is keen to tackle this and has recently given a substantial grant to Solihull Council to prevent further cases of domestic violence in our Borough. However, if we are to prevent such incidences in the future, the best way to do this is to educate children about healthy relationships. This is all the more important in an internet age, as these days more and more children have a mobile phone from primary school age which makes them open to abuse by social media. Indeed, the majority of calls to the charity ChildLine are about abuse via social media, which is why Parliament; supported by the Church of England (the UK’s largest single education provider), recently decided by a clear majority to ensure age appropriate relationship and sex education is taught in our primary and secondary schools.
Whilst parents will have to right to withdraw their children from these lessons, we do need to equip our children to cope with the risk posed by social media by teaching healthy relationships as an important way of preventing domestic abuse.
Dame Caroline Spelman MP
Published in the Solihull Observer, 9th March 2017