Govt’s VAW strategy is good news

// 25 November 2009

Following Jess’ post on today – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – just a quick note to let readers know I’ve written a response to the Government’s new violence against strategy on Comment is Free.

Update: Big kudos to the EVAW (End Violence Against Women) Coalition for their years of hard work on lobbying the Government to develop this strategy. Just goes to show what feminist activism can achieve.

Comments From You

Melanie // Posted 25 November 2009 at 10:59 pm

Great article, zohra. As always, with CiF, 90% of the comments underneath are sickening, though.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 25 November 2009 at 11:38 pm

I very rarely read the comments on Cif for that reason!

Anyway – might be a silly question but how would a change of Government affect this strategy?

Deya // Posted 26 November 2009 at 3:50 am

Good article and good news. Agree wholeheartedly that once again, comment is free has been hijacked by people whose main aim is to undermine women’s rights. Immediately does anyone write an article concentrating on any aspect to do with women, do these people show up and wail that men are being victimised by the cruel author, government, society and don’t forget: the universe.

This is an aside but I wonder if there is another Guardian-like forum which hasn’t yet been colonised by the above kind of commenters where op-ed pieces can be submitted and rationally discussed? Or is the whole of mainstream news media like this?

gadgetgal // Posted 26 November 2009 at 8:51 am

Good posting – most of the comments were the usual stupid bordering on vile but there were some good ones as well – I liked that someone pointed out that there are actually many initiatives aimed at reducing violence towards men, including reducing knife crime and firearms, people tend to forget this. I even remember a specific campaign years ago to reduce sunburn in men since it was more likely to occur to them than women (apparently they were less likely to wear sunscreen) – I don’t remember anyone complaining that it was sexist, it was just based on how many people you have to treat for burns!

I do hope, though, that when the lessons against violence are instituted in schools they cover ALL violence, and not just violence against women and girls – at age 7 gender and sex aren’t a huge part of most kids experiences, so just a general “violence is wrong” message might work a bit better than pointing out something to children that they never noticed before. I don’t know, I’ll have to reserve judgement until I see what they actually plan on teaching. Much as I want violence against women to end, and much as I hate all the detractors who seem to believe it either doesn’t exist or it’s not worth the time, I don’t necessarily think lecturing small boys about something they probably haven’t done yet is the answer. Lecturing ALL kids about their responsibilities to each other might be.

JenniferRuth // Posted 26 November 2009 at 9:05 am

I thought it was a great article Zohra. It’s just a pity that the conversation always veers to a “what about the men stance” – I thought that the comparisons you used in the comments of the article really highlighted the ridiculousness of this derailing strategy.

George // Posted 26 November 2009 at 9:58 am

It was a great article, and it’s great news.

(I feel so defenceless when I read the comments, though – I just don’t understand how people can be full of so much hatred and ignorance. ffs.)

aimee // Posted 26 November 2009 at 10:44 am

I love the irony of the comment regarding silencing people by mentioning that there were so many ‘what about the men’ comments!

Awww, now the poor men are being silenced. How dare women not let them have the fucking monopoly on fucking everything! How can they not see the ridiculousness of trying to turn an event about violence against WOMEN into something about men!?

This is why I don’t read the comments on the Guardian. They make me so cross and ranty.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 26 November 2009 at 12:50 pm

There have been a number of programmes devised in respect of challenging male violence against women and girls and in particular, teaching boys and girls in a specific age related way, why male violence against women and girls is a human rights issue.

Womankind have devised a schools programme and it has been successfully implemented in a number of schools. However, the main problem, as always, is many schools do not want to engage with the complex issue of male violence against women.

It depends on how and in what manner the government’s proposals will be implemented. There is a wealth of programmes devised specifically for working with girls and boys from age 5 upwards and all these programmes have a feminist focus – which will immediately be subject to ‘what about women’s violence against men criticism etc.’ However, unless we address the issue of how our male-dominant and male-centered society promotes and condones male violence against women and girls, we cannot even begin to educate boys and girls about male violence against women and girls.

Getting it right is difficult but as Womankind has shown it can be done successfully without pathologising girls or blaming boys. The minute a child is born they are immediately subjected to so-called ‘common-sense’ notions of what it means to be female or male and the emphasis is always on adhering to patriarchal notions of feminine and masculine behaviour.

A huge undertaking so the government’s proposals need to be carefully monitored because a gender neutral approach does not work, neither an approach which focuses on changing girls’ behaviour – since it is not about girls or women but rather changing/challenging boys’ and men’s beliefs/behaviours which is the real issue.

Jess McCabe // Posted 26 November 2009 at 1:16 pm

Great piece, and really good that the government have come out with the strategy. Still need time to digest what’s in it, but good that something’s happening. Like Catherine said, I’d be interested to know what the impact of a change of government would be, but hopefully it will be embedded.

I read a few of the comments but got too annoyed.

Kate // Posted 26 November 2009 at 3:40 pm

I love that the Neanderthals of CIF will always hijack any “women’s issue” to complain about men but then do absolutely nothing constructive about it. I heard that of the 10,000 responses the government received to the consultation, only two raised the issue of men. Also, it’s wilful ignorance of the history of this sector. Women weren’t handed refuges and support services on a plate by the government. They had to fight tooth and nail, and this strategy comes nearly four decades after the first refuge. If they honestly believe there is a need for men’s services perhaps they ought to learn from the best of the women’s movement rather than trying to hijack it.

And that’s before you even look at the “evidence” that they fling around. There’s so much ignorance below the line, and then they dare to claim that awareness raising campaigns aren’t necessary!

@Catherine. Good question. Some bits would be quite difficult to unpick but it is a worry. The Tories did actually produce a pretty good VAW strategy last year, but I just don’t think looking at them that they have anyone on a par with Harriet, Vera Baird, Jacqui Smith et al who is really going to fight to make this a priority.

Deya // Posted 26 November 2009 at 4:11 pm

About schools – the success of whatever recommendations for school the DSCF advisory group ends up drawing up depends on how well it is delivered. No one wants to blame a 7 year old boy for something he hasn’t thought of yet, and I am pretty sure that the recommendations will include different interventions for different age groups, just as we have for sex and relationship education.

However a 7 year old boy may have been affected by domestic violence or witnessed an abusive relationship himself, and as he grows older, will definitely see representations of women being disrespected and humiliated (Grand theft auto, rape jokes etc), and at some point in his schoolgoing life, will realise he wants to ask for someone’s consent to have sex. Ensuring that there is a discussion about what’s wrong with the situation, how it needs changing and what he can do will be very useful, both in how he views the world, how he views his partners and what he can later contribute.

And change of party? Intriguingly in the Women’s section of the Tory website there is a pdf called ‘Ending violence against women strategy paper’ from last year. On skim reading there does not seem to be any specific resolutions, and lots of “we will support” eg. “we will support schools to include domestic violence in PSHE” – didn’t spell out if they meant money, guidance, manpower, moral support. But at least they care, right?

gadgetgal // Posted 26 November 2009 at 6:56 pm

I must admit, I’m obviously a bit of a sadist because I’ve now read ALL the comments on the article. Most of them are too biased to really even make a comment about or respond to, but there were some interesting ideas (they mostly got drowned out by the dross, though). I like the way you’ve responded to the comments with facts, figures and a calm voice – difficult when you have rabid people who’ll just disagree with you no matter what you say! Keep up the excellent work, and I’m looking forward to your next piece :)

zohra moosa // Posted 27 November 2009 at 10:02 am

Hi all

Thanks for the support.

Hi Deya, I guess it depends what you’re looking for. Different sites/blogs have different audiences and different influence. I was suprised actually at the discussion on the thread on this piece; there was very little substantive engagement with my argument. It was a lot of ‘what about men’ and ‘all violence is the same’. Usually, on top of this, there are also several attempts by people to discuss the content. Not sure what happened there. DIdn’t feel like that happened this time.

Hi Jennifer Drew

Thanks for that, I agree.

Hi Kate, well said!

Hi gadgetgal

Thanks. If you want to continue the pain, click on my name on the article to get to the page with some of my other contributions on cif and check out the comments on them:)

sianmarie // Posted 27 November 2009 at 10:42 am

great article zohra, really thought provoking and great to set it in the international context. i was trying to explain on another forum that VAW refers to DV but it also refers to a whole range of violent acts, from forced marriage to FGM to rape to harrassment. i think by setting it in the global context we remember how wide and far reaching the violence is.

comments on CIF – bah! hate them. as you say zohra, the few i read before giving up didn’t engage with your article at all. it was as if they didn’t read the piece, just saw women in the headline and went off on one…i wrote about this phenonemon on my blog ( and i thought it was ironic that the first responses to a blog saying how frustrating it is when anti women commenters take over a blog about women’s rights were anti women commenters yelling at me for not talking about men!

i am a bit concerned by how a lot of the media have focussed on the DV lessons for school children. as ever, this has been reported by the daily mail and metro et al that children “as young as five will learn about gay people and transgender” – firstly so what, i certainly knew abuot gay people when i was 5 (my mum is gay!) but also this education initiative is to help teach children about respect and the importance of non violence. the pack i saw from women’s aid was ace – the 5 year old lesson plan was about looking at toys and deciding which toys were for girls, which were for boys and which toys boys and girls both played with, and then asking the children which toys they liked best, to show that it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, you can play with any toy you like. the lessons for secondary school children were more about what form can DV take and why is it important to recognise that it is more than hitting, it can be emotional/physical/sexual/financial.

it is a shame that such an important and exciting initiative has been inaccurately sensationalised. as usual it is the case of the right wing media not reading the facts and making a headline. rage!

earwicga // Posted 27 November 2009 at 10:58 am

I have braved the CIF comments and come across this rather brilliant analogy, posted by ‘littlevigilante’:

“As a friend of mine put it recently: in animal rights campaigning, some people feel it very urgent to protest about the clubbing of seal pups for the fur trade. Others devote their time to opposing whaling laws. What you don’t get is crowds of angry pro-seal protestors turning up at an anti-whaling demonstration complaining, ‘but what about the SEALS?’. You don’t get the whaling protestors claiming that the seal protestors are hypocrites because they fail to give equal attention to the poor whales – even though such animal abuses operate under the same basic principle that animals are fair game for exploitation. ….[by the way, this is purely an example, I’m not even a vegetarian]”

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