It’s never too late to talk
Bristol schools set to tackle domestic and sexual abuse
Launch of Bristol Ideal
The ground breaking ‘Bristol Ideal’ project, which aims to work effectively with children and young people at school to prevent domestic and sexual violence in later years, is launched today (28 March) by the Mayor, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, the Assistant Mayor for Education and all four of the city’s MPs.
The Bristol Ideal (www.bristolideal.org.uk) is leading the way nationally by setting out guidance, lesson plans and support to ensure every Bristol School reaches a minimum standard to make a lasting impact on reducing the shocking domestic abuse figures that see an estimated fourteen thousand women and girls become victims each year in the city. The project has been funded jointly by the Police and Crime Commissioner and Bristol City Council.
Bristol’s definition of domestic and sexual violence covers; domestic abuse, teen abuse, sexual violence, rape, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, forced marriage, so called honour violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual harassment.
Mayor George Ferguson said, “Bristol has acquired an excellent reputation for our innovative work tackling domestic and sexual violence, particularly around FGM, but there is no room for complacency and much more can and must be done. Time and money is always best spent on prevention work and I’m delighted that this innovative project will do just that.”
Cllr Brenda Massey said, “Schools have many aspects of learning to cover but we want to support our schools to incorporate this learning as a core school activity. If done well, this could have quite amazing results in the future. It will take time of course, this is about changing culture and re-educating, but we are absolutely in it for the long run.”
The standards that schools can achieve include:
- Formally timetabled, regular Relationships and Sex Education lessons for every year group as part of the curriculum. As part of this learning, children and young people will:
- understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships
- understand that healthy relationships are based on empathy, negotiation, and respect
- know about all forms of domestic and sexual abuse and about coercive and controlling relationships
- Understand gendered violence as a cause and consequence of inequality.
- Know where to go to report abuse.
- Taking a whole-school approach to tackling domestic and sexual violence including having a specific school policy and a dedicated domestic abuse champion.
- Sending staff on relevant training – which will be offered for free by the Bristol Ideal.
- Ensuring that information about support services are available for pupils and staff, and that there is access to specialist support services for children and young people.
All Bristol head teachers will be provided a pack of guidance and resources that will enable schools to implement the actions simply and effectively. These will also be available online at the new website www.bristolideal.org.uk and will be sent direct to schools.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “We are fortunate to live in a world where we have access to information and have the ability to raise awareness of domestic and sexual violence towards women and children.
“I feel passionate that violence against any person is unacceptable. Having a set of standards in schools, working towards the common goal of showing that this behaviour will not be tolerated, is the best example we can set for our young people.”
This is not an excuse to rape me
A powerful publicity campaign which confronts the perception that women are often to blame for being raped has been launched across Bristol called ‘This is not an excuse to rape me’. The campaign includes billboards, bus stops, posters, leaflets and a website www.thisisnotanexcuse.org.uk. The campaign is also on twitter @noexcuseBristol.
The campaign is funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens.
The Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Rape and sexual assault is never the victim’s fault and that’s why tackling violence against women and children is one of my priorities in the police and crime plan”.
“There is some fantastic work being done to raise awareness of rape, encourage reporting and supporting victims but working together we will and can do more to challenge the attitudes some people have towards rape.”
Launch of helpline for girls in danger of FGM
A new Female Genital Mutilation Helpline was launched on Monday 24 June 2013 as a UK-wide service. It will operate 24/7, and will be staffed by specially trained child protection helpline counsellors who can offer advice, information, and assistance to members of the public and to professionals. Counsellors will also be able to make referrals, as appropriate, to statutory agencies and other services.
The helpline can be contacted on:
0800 028 3550 and emails sent to
The aim of this specialist helpline is to improve the safeguarding of children in the UK by increasing the detection and protection of children at risk or who have become victims of female genital mutilation. It will also facilitate, as necessary, the sharing of information with police and relevant agencies so that intelligence can be gathered and appropriate action taken against those who facilitate female genital mutilation against children. It will work in the same way as the main NSPCC helpline.
Supermarkets could face harassment complaints over lads’ mags, say lawyers
Experts from six legal sets, including Matrix Chambers, where members include Cherie Booth QC, wife of the former prime minister Tony Blair, say that displaying publications “in workplaces, and/or requiring staff to handle them in the course of their jobs may amount to sex discrimination and sexual harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010”.
Previously women have successfully argued they were discriminated against because of the display of explicit material in the workplace, but there has never been a publicised legal case against any major retailer.
If they fail to act, the lawyers threaten to bring a test case and will support employees uncomfortable with images of naked and near-naked women on magazines.
“For too long supermarkets have got off the hook, stocking lads’ mags in the face of widespread opposition, but this time we have the law on our side,” said Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista. “Every shop that sells lads’ mags – publications which are deeply harmful to women – are opening themselves up to legal action.”
The group says retail employees have told them they dislike handling the magazines but feel powerless to take up the issue with their employers.
“One woman said to us: ‘Those magazines don’t do women any favours, they are appalling and demeaning to women, but what can little old me do about it?’ Well, employees need to know they don’t need to put up with it any more.”
Sophie Bennett, campaigns officer for Object, said: “Lads’ mags dehumanise and objectify women, promoting harmful attitudes that underpin discrimination and violence against women and girls. Reducing women to sex objects sends out an incredibly dangerous message that women are constantly sexually available and displaying these publications in everyday spaces normalises this sexism.”
The lawyers’ letter supports the campaign and urges high-street retailers to immediately withdraw magazines and papers featuring explicit covers from their stores.
It says: “High-street retailers are exposing staff and, in some cases, customers to publications whose handling and display may breach equality legislation. Displaying lads’ mags and pornographic papers in mainstream shops results in the involuntary exposure of staff and, in some cases, customers to pornographic images.
“Every mainstream retailer which stocks lads’ mags is vulnerable to legal action by staff and, where those publications are visibly on display, by customers.”
There are examples of staff successfully suing employers in respect of exposure to pornographic material at work, if it “creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them”, said Anna Mazzola, an associate at Bindmans LLP.
“There has been a growing awareness that making employees handle these magazines, and displaying pornographic front covers in mainstream, not just adult, shops may not just be arguably ethically wrong but may fall foul of equalities legislation,” she said. “There is much more acceptance that both the state and private companies have a duty to ensure people are not discriminated against.”
The British Retail Consortium said: “Major retailers don’t need reminding of their responsibilities to staff and customers. BRC members don’t sell anything it isn’t legal to sell and they have long followed joint industry guidelines, as well as taking their own independent voluntary action, to make sure that front covers which may concern some people are displayed discreetly.
“This is an area where fixed definitions are difficult. Our members regard their stores as family-friendly environments which is why conversations with staff and customers about what they believe is appropriate will continue.”
The campaigners acknowledge that legal action could prove costly but argue that with fundraising and supportive legal help, a test case would be “feasible and practical”, said Banyard. “We are serious about this. Supermarkets need to lose the lads’ mags or they could end up in court.”
2007 An employment tribunal awarded a woman damages for sex discrimination that she experienced while working for Sussex police. Male colleagues watched an X-rated television channel and displayed pornographic material in the workplace.
2008 An employment tribunal found that a woman had experienced sex discrimination while working at Network Rail, including colleagues victimising her by putting pornographic magazines in her in-tray and in the ladies’ toilets.
2008 Three male NHS staff were sacked after watching pornographic films on their work computers.
Somalia: Female Genital Mutilation down
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Attitudes in Somalia toward a practice that critics decry as torture may be changing, as new data released by the U.N. children’s agency on Tuesday showed that female genital mutilation among children in northern Somalia is on the decline.
The survey released by UNICEF and the governments of Somaliland and Puntland found that 25 percent of girls from the ages of 1 to 14 years old have undergone the practice, compared with 99 percent of women in those regions.
UNICEF has been working with community and religious leaders in northern Somalia to try to change attitudes toward female genital mutilation. Sheema Sen Gupta, the chief of child protection for UNICEF in Somalia, said that 28 communities in Somaliland have declared an end to the practice, and UNICEF hopes to have that number up to 60 by the end of this year.
“If you ask the average Somali woman why they practice FGM now, they will tell you it’s for religious reasons. But it’s not religious because FGM predates Islam,” Gupta said.
In December the U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation, a centuries-old practice stemming from the belief that circumcising girls controls women’s sexuality and enhances fertility. It has also been linked to religious and cultural practices, although Muslim and Christian leaders have spoken out against it.
“When religious leaders are able to come out and say this is not a religious practice, then people start listening,” said UNICEF chief Gupta.
Female genital mutilation is commonplace in 28 countries in Africa as well as in Yemen, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and among certain ethnic groups in South America, according to Amnesty International. But the issue is a worldwide concern because it is also practiced by immigrants in diaspora communities.
The U.N. said in 2010 that about 70 million girls and women had undergone the procedure, and the World Health Organization said about 6,000 girls were circumcised every day.
Aside from religious reasons, Somali women say that they choose female genital mutilation for their daughters so that they are more eligible for marriage, said Gupta.
“Even the women who are educated, including Somali women living in the U.K., for example, when we talk to them and try to understand why they practice FGM they say, `My daughter is not going to be marriageable if she is not circumcised,'” Gupta said. “So the social pressures are such, the traditional norms are such, that even when people know that it’s painful, it’s barbaric, etc., people are saying, `Can my daughter be married?'”
But Gupta said that when she talks to Somali men and asks if a woman should be circumcised, the men say they don’t know and that the women say it needs to be done.
The survey data released Tuesday is only the fourth multiple-indicator cluster survey to be carried out in Somalia, a notoriously difficult place to gather solid information over the last 20 years.
The survey also found that the literacy rate among women in northern Somalia is on the rise, as is school attendance. Access to quality drinking water is also up.
However, Susannah Price, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, said that new information showing a low number of children being vaccinated was “depressing,” and it showed more work needs to be done.
The future does appear brighter for reducing the number of girls subjected to female genital mutilation, said Gupta. She noted that Somalia’s new constitution, passed last year, bans the practice. Al-Shabab, the militant group that controls large parts of south-central Somalia, also bans it, she said.
“I think we’ve made a dent and I think, for us, I think there’s going to be quite a bit of progress from now on,” Gupta said.