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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 27 November 2018

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Poverty (United Kingdom), Violence against Women, Committee Announcement, Decision Time, NHS Highland (Bullying)


Violence against Women

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-14904, in the name of Christina McKelvie, on hear me too, 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls.


The Minister for Older People and Equalities (Christina McKelvie)

Violence against women and girls is one of the most devastating and fundamental violations of human rights. It has to stop, and meaningful action must be taken to stop it. The 16 days of action provide an opportunity for us to come together, give new momentum to our ambitions and review just how far we have come. The occasion is being marked all across Scotland, and I look forward to joining the many events over the next 16 days.

At the weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend an event that focused on the catalyst for the campaign. On 25 November 1960, sisters Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, three political activists who actively opposed the cruelty and systematic violence of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, were clubbed to death and dumped at the bottom of a cliff by Trujillo’s secret police. The Mirabal sisters became symbols of the feminist resistance and, in 1980, in commemoration of their deaths, 25 November was declared international day for the elimination of violence against women in Latin America. The international day was formally recognised by the United Nations in 1999. Today, the campaign takes place annually to remember those who have been lost to gender-based violence and to commend the bravery and sacrifice of those activists who have striven to end violence against women and girls all over the world.

This debate takes place at a time when violence against women and girls is very much in the spotlight. We have all been moved by the stories told through the #MeToo movement, which has prompted thousands of women to disclose that they, too, have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. If #MeToo has achieved anything, it has given women the voice to stand up to everyday sexism, gender-based stereotypes, sexual harassment, glass ceilings—the list goes on. Behaviour that was once written off or tacitly ignored is finally being challenged and perpetrators are being held to account.

Given its proximity to today’s debate, it would be remiss of me not to mention the trial in Cork, which caused controversy in the Irish Parliament when Ruth Coppinger TD exhibited her outrage at the proposition that a woman’s choice of underwear could imply whether she did or did not wish to have sex that evening. Victim blaming is an insidious problem that we must continue to address in our society every day and in every way.

Let me be clear: in challenging such behaviour, this Government, this Parliament and this society have a responsibility to take action to end violence against women and girls. To achieve success, we must work together. Our equally safe strategy has a decisive focus on prevention, seeks to strengthen national and local collaboration in working to ensure effective interventions for victims and those at risk, and contains a clear ambition to strengthen the justice response to victims and perpetrators.

This time last year, we published a delivery plan of practical steps that will take us towards ending such violence for good. The delivery plan sets out 118 actions, and we intend to take those forward until 2021. We have already made progress in taking forward many of those actions, particularly in our approach to ensuring that our children have an understanding of important issues such as consent and healthy relationships. We are expanding the Rape Crisis Scotland sexual violence prevention programme to all 32 local authorities, and we are supporting Rape Crisis Scotland and Zero Tolerance in their equally safe at school project to develop a whole-school approach to tackling gender-based violence.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to visit St John Ogilvie high school, in my constituency—I have visited it on many occasions—to find students giving an assembly on equally safe. Next week, I look forward to visiting Denny high school to see its work to embed equally safe principles throughout its institution. When I was in St John Ogilvie high school, one of the amazing young women activists who were delivering the project reminded me of a quote from Elizabeth Edwards:

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.”

The voices of our young children are important, and our everyday heroes project made sure that we listened to children and young people during the development of our delivery plan. I look forward to meeting some of those exceptional young people next week at the everyday heroes parliamentary reception.

Our focus on education extends to our universities and colleges, and I take this moment to mention Emily Drouet. Emily was an ambitious, promising 18-year-old. In her first year at university, she took her own life because she was experiencing domestic abuse by her partner. That reminds us that no institution is immune to the scourge of gender-based violence. We are working with universities and colleges to support them in using the learning from our equally safe project in a further and higher education project at the University of Strathclyde to ensure the safety of students from gendered violence and to embed better understanding of those issues in their curriculums.

Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Does the minister think that more education is needed around the Government’s position that prostitution and pornography are also on the spectrum of violence against women?

Christina McKelvie

I agree with Elaine Smith on that point. Last week, as part of the 16 days, I opened the Inside Outside exhibition at the University of West Scotland. It is in Kilmarnock this week, and I urge members to get along to see the experiences of the women and victims involved. We will always look at the aspects of gender-based violence that relate to prostitution, and I would be happy to hear about those from Elaine Smith, who has campaigned for many years on that issue.

I will pause a moment to pay tribute to Fiona Drouet, Emily’s mother, who is in the public gallery today. Fiona has campaigned with the National Union of Students for universities to tackle these issues on campus and provide better support for students. Her contribution to that project has been, and continues to be, phenomenal. It is humbling to see how Fiona and her husband have managed to turn such a personal tragedy into a driving force for change. My ministerial colleagues and my officials, and probably every member across the Parliament, would like to express the fact that we have been inspired by their personal campaign and continue to be inspired by it. [Applause.]

It is important that we raise awareness of and embed understanding of gender-based violence, but the bigger challenge is in delivering a societal shift whereby women no longer occupy a subordinate position to men. We need to make progress in advancing women’s equality in a range of spaces: economic, civic, social and cultural. The work of the First Minister’s national advisory council on women and girls is important in that regard, and I look forward to seeing its first report early next year.

We also need to act here and now to ensure that those who experience violence and abuse get the help and support that they need. Specialist third sector services play a vital role in providing that support, which is why we are providing three years’ funding for those organisations to enable them to plan for the future. I put on record my personal tribute to all the organisations that have persisted in ensuring that we get the right information in order to make the decisions that we make here in Parliament.

More than £12 million from the equality budget is being invested this year to support services and tackle the underlying issues that create the conditions for violence. Last month, in recognition of the significant demand that rape crisis centres face for their valuable support services, I was pleased to announce additional funding of £1.5 million over the next three years to help those centres to better meet that demand. There has been a significant amount of activity this year by the Government and its partners, but I recognise that more remains to be done, and we will continue to keep up the pace.

Over the coming year, we will run a number of campaigns, including a major national campaign on sexual harassment and sexism, to raise further awareness of the issues and to encourage a change in behaviour and attitudes. We will also work more closely with Zero Tolerance to organise a more in-depth event looking at the role that the media can play in tackling violence against women and girls. The media has an important role to play in shaping the wider attitudes in society. We have all seen the deeply unfortunate and sometimes misogynistic coverage of women in our media, but we have also seen some truly excellent coverage in which journalists have shone a spotlight on these issues. I am honoured to be speaking at tomorrow’s write to end violence against women award ceremony, which celebrates the best of media reporting.

As I stated at the outset, the theme of this year’s 16 days concerns ending gender-based violence in the world of work. I know that this Parliament has taken steps to tackle sexual harassment in this workplace, which is welcome. I am also pleased to inform the chamber that the Scottish Government is running its own internal campaign during the 16 days, which will involve a number of events to raise awareness and send a clear message that harassment and abuse are never acceptable. It will be a clear reminder that it falls to us all to take action in this area.

A lot has been achieved, but there is more to be done. We cannot rest until violence against women and girls is consigned to history. I will end with a quote from Emma Watson, the UN women goodwill ambassador. She says:

“How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”

I urge us all to actively participate in the conversation, today in this chamber, tomorrow and until we have ensured that every woman in Scotland lives free from violence.


Annie Wells (Glasgow) (Con)

This is the third time that I have spoken in an annual debate that recognises the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. Every year, I am reminded of the grave situations that many women are faced with, domestically and around the globe, simply because of their gender. The issue transcends borders and cultures. Today it will unite us in the chamber, as we condemn a global issue that has affected women and girls for far too long. For 16 days, from 25 November to 10 December, the campaign offers a unique opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and how far we have to go when it comes to eradicating gender-based violence.

In the global context, the statistics are extremely alarming. One in three women worldwide experiences gender-based violence. In 2012, almost half the women worldwide who were victims of intentional homicide were killed by a partner or family member, compared with just 6 per cent of male victims. Across the world, 71 per cent of all human trafficking victims are women and girls.

This year, the UN’s UNiTE to end violence against women campaign focuses on the theme #HearMeToo, the purpose of which is to unite women’s rights networks around the world to stand together in solidarity with survivor advocates and human rights defenders.

In line with that theme, it is right that I highlight the work that the United Kingdom is doing in the global context. Last autumn, the UK Government committed £12 million of funding to the UN trust fund to end violence against women. That support is expected to help about 750,000 women and girls over the next three years. Last week, the Department for International Development made the largest-ever single investment in ending female genital mutilation worldwide by 2030. That is a huge commitment from the UK Government, and one that puts violence against women and girls at the heart of international funding.

Of course, the UK is not immune to gender-based violence, and there is still a persistent problem to tackle at home. The Scottish Government’s focus on violence in the workplace reminds us that it remains the case that many women are subjected to sexual harassment and assault in their everyday employment. I think that following the widespread sharing of sexual harassment stories in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal last year, we were all shocked to learn the extent of the problem. A poll showed that half of British women and a fifth of men had been sexually harassed at work or at a place of study, and that of those people, 63 per cent of women and 79 of men had kept it to themselves. Most shocking of all was that the poll also showed that one in 10 women had been sexually assaulted.

Although far too many women and girls are affected by gender-based violence, I believe that the events of the past year have instigated a major shift in attitude when it comes to open and frank debate. I am pleased to see that a national conversation is taking place, and that the issue is being given the attention that it deserves.

Even within the political environment alone, the impact of the #MeToo movement was huge. By way of sending out a strong message, we saw the swift response from the Scottish Parliament with the issuing of an anonymous survey to all staff and the setting up of culture of respect workshops.

Sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation can take place in any public or private space. I want to make sure that the conversation continues.

Kezia Dugdale (Lothian) (Lab)

Does Annie Wells think that it is now easier than it was a year ago for someone to report that they have been subjected to sexual harassment? Does she think that insecurity of work is a problem? A woman’s being likely to get fewer hours next week means that she is less likely to report, because all the power has landed in her boss’s hands.

Annie Wells

I think that sexual harassment is easier to report now—the people whom I speak to are saying that. However, we still have a huge mountain to climb when it comes to power being in the bosses’ hands. That is something that we can all work on and take forward. All members are employers in Parliament.

Earlier in the year, I met Fiona and Germain Drouet, the parents of Emily Drouet, who sadly took her own life after a campaign of abuse and violence by her boyfriend. I was proud to support the #EmilyTest campaign, which calls for increased funding for colleges and universities to support students who are affected by gender-based violence. I am also pleased to see that delivery in schools of the Rape Crisis Scotland sexual violence prevention programme will be extended to all 32 local authorities to increase understanding of consent and healthy relationships. Those are positive steps that show that momentum is building and things are changing.

However, it goes without saying that we still have a long way to go in other areas. More than 30,000 domestic abuse charges were dealt with by Scottish prosecutors in 2017-18, and more than 2,000 rapes or attempted rapes were recorded by Police Scotland last year alone. Between 2011 and 2014, nearly 200 women and girls in Scotland were subjected to forced marriage. Increased reporting will, of course, have an impact on statistics, but those statistics are no less shocking.

I would like to focus on a couple of areas before I close. FGM is still far too prevalent a practice in the UK, with about 170,000 women and girls having undergone the procedure in this country. We have seen more action being taken south of the border, so with that in mind, I ask the cabinet secretary to give us an update, in closing, on how the Government is progressing its programme for government commitment to introduce an FGM bill that will propose protection orders for women and girls who are at risk, and introduce statutory reporting guidance for professionals.

We have also seen renewed discussion about how victims of rape and sexual assault experience Scotland’s justice system, with frequent delays, poor communication and a feeling of disengagement from the process being cited as commonly occurring issues. Will the cabinet secretary outline what action is being taken by the Government to reform the system in order to help victims?

To finish, I again express my sincere support for the global campaign. Millions of women and girls here in the UK and all round the world find themselves in horrific situations, many of which are too difficult to comprehend. This will never be an easy subject to talk about, but I know that we will need to address it for many years to come because so many barriers—not just violence—face women.

The 16 days of activism is a great platform and starting point from which to highlight the issues, but I hope to see many more debates throughout the parliamentary year that focus on the problems that blight women and girls.


Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

The debate has become an annual occurrence to mark the 16 days of activism against violence against women. I agree with Annie Wells that we need to have many more such debates throughout the year to work on the issue and to make sure that we eradicate violence against women.

In such debates, we often congratulate ourselves on the work that Parliament has done—from the first committee bill, which was piloted by Maureen Macmillan, that gave greater protection to victims, to the latest bill that legislated to make coercive control an offence. Sadly, we also debate what still needs to be done—which shows us that although we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go.

Violence against women is not a problem with women. It is a problem with a minority of men, yet they seem to be able to define our society’s norms. Sexually motivated crime is rising. Although some of the reporting that we see is historical, the trend is upward, which shows that there is, on the part of some men, a growing sense of entitlement to the right to sex without consent.

Sadly, many of our young people are getting much of their sex education from the internet, which leads to their having that sense. Hard-core pornography influences how young people see sexual relationships and leads to a sense of entitlement and to sexual violence. In order to counteract that, we have to ensure that children have access to high-quality sex education that includes education on respect and consent. I also welcome the extension to all schools of Rape Crisis Scotland’s prevention programme.

However, the matter is not only for our schools to tackle; it is also for our parents and, indeed, for our society as a whole to tackle. We need to make hard-core pornography less accessible. In this age of technology, that should not be difficult. Search engine companies and internet service providers must introduce protection, but so far they have faced no pressure to act. Will the Government explore how it can bring its influence to bear on such companies in order to make them act?

Secondly, I will speak about commercial sexual exploitation, which was touched on by my colleague, Elaine Smith. From phone chatlines to prostitution, such exploitation has been recognised as being a form of violence against women since our very first strategy, but little has been done to discourage it. Indeed, austerity has driven women into commercial sexual exploitation; cuts have had a greater impact on women, and universal credit, the two-child cap and the rape clause all mean that women are struggling to feed their families. The choice is stark—lose your children or sell sex. That is simply wrong.

As mentioned by others, Philip Alston, the United Nations’ rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, described our welfare system as something that could have been compiled by

“a group of misogynists in a room”.

Therefore, I appeal to the Scottish Government to use its powers to repeal the two-child cap and, with it, the rape clause, because the inequality in our welfare system breeds inequality in our society.

We cannot have an equal society when women are a commodity to be bought and sold. That situation encourages trafficking and slavery. Although it is a crime to buy sex from a person who has been trafficked, we have yet to see anyone being prosecuted for that crime. Prostitution damages health and it damages society: those who are forced into or resort to prostitution never leave unscathed. Many women and men in prostitution have been victims of child sex abuse or have been in care. People who have already been badly let down are then used as commodities rather than being supported. That is simply wrong: it must be tackled, and we must learn today what the Government is doing to make Scotland a place where buying sex is no longer acceptable.

Much of the focus on violence against women has been on domestic abuse. We have some of the best legislation in the world on that, but we need to go further. My casework tells me that abusers will stop at nothing to assert their control. An obvious target is children. Too often, we read in the newspapers about children being murdered by a person’s abusive partner, simply as a means of attacking the mother. Few of us can believe that anyone would go to those lengths, but it happens, and far too often.

However, the use of access arrangements as a route to coercive control and abuse is more common. Our family courts appear to have little understanding of domestic abuse, and they force abused partners to take part in mediation and grant access to abusive partners. No abuser should have the right to see their children, but repeatedly women are forced to send their children to an abusive partner and to live in fear of what will happen to the children while they are with that partner. If they refuse, they are threatened with loss of their access and, in some cases, their liberty. How cruel is that?

The abusive partner often changes arrangements in order to exercise their control, and uses access to find out information about their victim, thereby creating conflict and stress for the children. They also find out where their children live and can use that information to perpetrate further abuse.

If a parent is abusive, their parental rights need to be removed until such time as they can prove to their ex-partner and the courts that they are no longer a threat. The Government is considering that, but we need legislation urgently because children are being damaged now.

The children of an abusive relationship are damaged by that relationship; it affects their mental health and their self-esteem. Their becoming the vehicle for that abuse makes their situation so much worse: we need to protect them from abuse and to create safe homes for them to grow up in. We hear of the impact that adverse childhood experiences have on children and how they damage their life chances. Domestic abuse is an adverse childhood experience, so the state must protect children from it.

I hope that we will reach the day when this annual debate is all about celebrating the end of violence against women. Until then, we need to use the debate to raise awareness of concerns and to prevail upon the Government to act.


John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I thank the various organisations that have provided briefings for today’s debate. I am delighted that all parties support the Scottish Government’s motion, as there should be consensus on the issue. As other members have said, the debate has become an annual event so there is a danger that we all say the same thing and share the same frustrations. Of course, to many people, it is an issue not just for 16 days but for every day.

However, I will try to provide some positive news. I noted from Twitter yesterday that

“Scotland’s prosecutors have begun training in preparation for new domestic abuse legislation which is due to come into force”

next year. That is a very positive step. My colleague Rhoda Grant talked about the aspects of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that are included in domestic abuse, and it is vital that there is specialist training on that.

The Solicitor General has talked about domestic abuse being unacceptable, saying:

“it goes to the heart and fabric of our society; it corrodes the fundamental values of respect and equality between genders”.

The big issue is that great inequality exists, and we are talking about gender-based violence and historical, systemic and inherent inequality.

Members have touched on the shocking statistic that was published yesterday by the UN on the number of women around the world who are killed each day by a partner or family member—the average is 137 women. Many will know that it is not that long since people considered that domestic violence was something that took place behind closed doors—that it was a private matter. Other members have alluded to the question of victim blaming, which is another pernicious issue for the victims of domestic abuse.

Judicial training is vital. In previous debates, I have mentioned—I make no apologies for mentioning it again, although I will spare individuals the mentioning of any names—the fact that High Court judges are not beyond making inappropriate comments and perpetuating stereotypes. I would like judicial training to be compulsory, rather than just—

Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

Will the member give way?

John Finnie


Bob Doris

The member makes a powerful and important point. As a result of my constituency case load and experience, I would welcome the extension of such training to sheriffs, who make quite delicate decisions in child custody hearings and about contact and access.

John Finnie

Bob Doris makes an extremely valid point. Indeed, a lot of decisions are made in a civil rather than a criminal context. It is absolutely vital that the power dynamic is understood by those who make the decisions.

The UN said yesterday that violence against women and girls is a “mark of shame” on our society. In retweeting that, White Ribbon Scotland said that it was

“a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women—and that it is tied to the broader issues of power and control in societies.”

That is evident.

On another positive note, I commend the Scottish Government’s update report on its equally safe strategy; I also commend a lot of the initiatives that are in it. The Government will launch

“a major campaign on sexual harassment and sexism”

in early 2019, which is very positive.

Issues are sometimes presented to the authorities that seem fairly innocuous. I was dealing with a case in which a constituent was being harassed on social media. Initially, the response from the police was, “Well, it’s just one of those things”. Fortunately, the matter is now being taken very seriously and is being considered in the sheriff court. Understanding the different routes that people use to perpetrate violence is important.

The role of the media is also mentioned in the equally safe strategy. We all face the same dilemma: by highlighting bad practice, are we promote it? However, we need to highlight bad practice.

Support for Close the Gap—which I thank for its briefing—from the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is very important. A lot of women might consider their workplace a safe environment, but the reality is that it is a place where they are harassed. Statistics show that three quarters of victims have been targeted at their work. It is important that we provide the wherewithal for people to provide support.

Another member talked about the implications of the benefits system and the disproportionate impact of that system on women and girls.

The Justice Committee is looking at the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill and the barnahus approach, whereby people are not continually revictimised by having their statement taken. We heard today of a victim of a vile sexual crime who was interviewed on more than 20 occasions—that, in itself, is horrendous. We should look at creative ways in which we can extend the provisions in the bill to include victims of domestic violence, so that their statements are taken by commission. That would be a positive step.

I commend the work of Police Scotland, as I have done in previous years. In particular, I commend it for the work that it has done—based in Forfar rather than the central belt—in close collaboration with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to investigate historical perpetrators who have been serial offenders against women. From the coverage of some of the court cases, people will know that tremendous work has been done to show that such offenders have had multiple victims and committed heinous crimes. That work is a very positive step.

Of course, education is the key. Everyone talks about education, and there is a way to go. There are issues around human trafficking and female genital mutilation.

I conclude by commending the campaign that is to be run to raise awareness of coercive control and domestic abuse to coincide with the implementation of the Domestic Violence (Scotland) Act 2018. That is one positive step, but we have a way to go.


Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I warmly welcome this afternoon’s debate and I confirm the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ strong support for the #HearMeToo campaign. I congratulate all those who are involved in the campaign to end violence against women and girls, and I thank them for the briefings that they and others have provided ahead of the debate.

As ever, there have been questions about why there is a focus on women and girls, not on men and boys. Although it is undoubtedly the case that men and boys are affected by violence, we need only have a cursory glance at the statistics to see the compelling argument about the gendered nature of violence.

Annie Wells set out a number of such statistics. Worldwide, one in two of the women who were murdered in 2012 were killed by their partner or a family member. That is 10 times as high as the figure for men. Across the European Union, 45 to 55 per cent of women have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. In Scotland, 79 per cent of the domestic abuse incidents that were reported in 2014-15 had a female victim and a male perpetrator. Those statistics and the other figures that have been provided by a range of organisations paint the same picture and reinforce the same message.

The underlying principle on which the equally safe delivery plan is based is that women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence that stems from systemic gender inequality. Twelve months on, we now have the first report on the delivery plan. It confirms that progress has been made in a number of areas but that we have a way to go in other areas.

As a member of the Justice Committee, like John Finnie, I acknowledge what has been achieved through the recent Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which recognises, at last, the effect that coercive and controlling behaviour can have. Such abuse is every bit as damaging—and potentially even more long lasting—than physical violence. The act also recognises the collateral and sometimes direct impact on children who live in a household in which there is an abusive relationship.

As John Finnie reminded us, this morning the committee heard strong support for the principles of the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) Scotland Bill, which is under consideration. However, we also heard real concerns that the bill as introduced perhaps falls short of what is needed, in relation to not just the protection of children and young people who are victims or witnesses in criminal trials, but how protection could be extended to other vulnerable witnesses, particularly in the area of domestic abuse.

I was struck by the evidence from a survey of young people that was carried out recently by Dr Claire Houghton and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, which found that young survivors of abuse felt that the justice system

“needs to be safer, quicker and less traumatic”,

and that providers of services need to be

“trained to listen, believe and respond appropriately”.

That echoes the findings of the “Review of Victim Care in the Justice Sector in Scotland” by Dr Lesley Thomson QC, which was published last year. Dr Thomson concluded:

“Victims often speak of feelings of re-victimisation or secondary victimisation once they enter the criminal justice arena. In the course of this Review a victim of rape described the trial experience as worse than the crime itself. That is a deeply troubling view.”

That cannot be right, and it shows that, however far we have come, we still have a long way to go in meeting the needs of women and girls—and children more generally—in our justice system.

That leads me on to the final issue that I want to highlight—that of forensic medical services. On the delivery of such services, the “Equally Safe: Year One Update Report” states:

“The clear preference was for a multi-agency, co-ordinated approach to help deliver ... the highest quality of person centred care, treatment and support—delivered as close as possible to the point of need”.

It goes on to say:

“The Scottish Government will consult on proposals to clarify in legislation the responsibility for forensic medical examinations to ensure that access to healthcare, as well as a forensic medical examination for victims of rape and sexual assault, is a NHS priority and consistently provided for throughout Scotland.”

On the back of the report on national standards in December 2017, it was clear that Orkney and Shetland fell well short of that aspiration. Too often, victims of rape and sexual assault were required to get on a plane and head south for such examinations. Unsurprisingly, evidence shows that, under such circumstances, women and girls have been reluctant to come forward with allegations. I pay tribute to the work of Rape Crisis Orkney in particular for highlighting those concerns and to the former Cabinet Secretary for Justice for taking them seriously and pressing for improvements; I pay tribute, too, to NHS Orkney for responding positively.

Progress is being made, but we need to build capacity to make forensic medical services sustainable. There is strong interest in doing that locally, but training will be key in securing that. I welcome last week’s commitment by Humza Yousaf that he would look at ways of providing training locally and that, if that is not possible, support will be provided for travel and accommodation costs to make sure that that training takes place. I hope that NHS Education for Scotland will now step up to the plate.

I am painfully conscious that the provision of such services will do nothing for children and young people who are affected by rape or sexual assault in our islands, for whom the experience is every bit as traumatic, if not more so. I will be happy to work with the Scottish Government to see what improvements can be made in that area.

There is plenty still to do. As John Finnie rightly reminded us, we are talking about 16 days of activism, but all of us should have a year-round commitment to the objectives behind the #HearMeToo campaign. In a week in which figures showed that 60,000 domestic abuse incidents had taken place in Scotland, any complacency should be dispelled. That provides the clearest possible call for further collective action to end violence against women and girls in Scotland and, indeed, worldwide.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

We move to the open debate. I ask for speeches of six minutes, please.


Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Here we are again, debating the subject of how to protect women and girls against violence. I long for the day when we do not have to have a debate that calls for an end to gender-based violence, but yesterday I saw the shocking facts that we have heard about, which highlight precisely why we must take action. Every day throughout the world, 137 women are killed by their partner or a family member. That is very hard to process.

Violence against women is a fundamental violation of human rights, and it has no place in our society. This year’s theme of 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence, #HearMeToo, follows on from prominent media campaigns such as #MeToo, which highlight the scale of sexual harassment in the workplace.

However, new research from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service shows that only one in four workers in the UK agrees that international media coverage has helped to improve their workplace culture and that 60 per cent feel that better staff training is needed to reduce sexual harassment at work. As co-convener of the cross-party group on men’s violence against women and children and a member of the sexual harassment working group in Parliament, I know how much focus is being put on work to improve that totally unacceptable situation.

As we heard from the minister, the Scottish Government is investing significant sums to tackle it and has introduced legislation on violence against women to hold perpetrators to account. That funding is being used to increase court capacity in order to reduce delays, inconvenience and stress for victims and their families, as well as to widen access to advocacy, support services and legal advice. We must also explore the expansion of programmes that address the underlying causes of perpetrator behaviour, such as the Caledonian programme, which works with men who have been convicted of domestic abuse-related offences to help to reduce reoffending.

In February, the Parliament passed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, and the resulting act created a specific offence of domestic abuse, which was previously dealt with under various existing laws. The act covers psychological and emotional abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour as well as physical attacks. It also introduced a statutory domestic abuse aggravator to ensure that, when sentencing offenders, courts take into account domestic abuse and, crucially, the damage that it causes to children, which Rhoda Grant outlined.

It is vital that young survivors of abuse have a voice, and the everyday heroes campaign, which is funded by the Government and co-ordinated by Scottish Women’s Aid, Barnardo’s, the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Youth Parliament, is enabling that.

I am in the early stages of a proposal to launch a member’s bill to legislate for stalking protection orders, which was originally proposed by my colleague Mairi Gougeon. Such legislation would mean that the police could apply directly to the court for an order, rather than the onus being on victims, who often feel vulnerable and nervous about taking civil action to get a non-harassment order, possibly at their own expense.

The number of recorded offences of stalking increased from 605 in 2012-13 to 1,372 in 2016-17—it has doubled. Stalking can have a severe and long-lasting impact on victims, yet the reporting rate for stalking and harassment is low compared with the rates for other crimes. Women and girls experience a higher than average level of stalking and harassment. About one in 10 16 to 24-year-olds has experienced at least one type of stalking and harassment in the previous 12 months, but that increases to more than 12 per cent for 16 to 24-year-old women. More than a third of those who have experienced stalking and harassment in the previous 12 months have also experienced partner abuse in the same period.

I am pleased that the Scottish Government is tackling the scourge of violence against women and girls head on. Equally safe, Scotland’s strategy to eradicate violence against women, which was introduced to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls, focuses on making primary prevention—stopping this violence in the first place—an increased priority.

We are also funding Close the Gap—I thank it for its briefing—which has developed an innovative and world-leading employer accreditation programme called equally safe at work, which it will pilot with seven local authorities from January to December next year. The pilot will support employers to improve their employment practice to address the barriers that women face at work. It will also enable employers to support employees who have experienced gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, and work towards creating an inclusive workplace culture that prevents violence against women. That is important because violence against women is a workplace issue. Evidence shows that three quarters of women who experience domestic abuse are targeted at work, and perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking often use workplace resources such as phones and emails to threaten, harass or abuse their current or former partner.

Gender inequality is at the root of sexual harassment and we must address toxic male-oriented workplace cultures, undervaluation of women’s work and lack of quality part-time and flexible roles along with harmful attitudes and stereotypes before any progress can be made on preventing violence against women in or outside the workplace.

A Government-funded programme within Scottish Women’s Aid has been running a pilot project for the past two years on how best to assist women who have experienced domestic abuse in their journey towards paid employment. The workplace must incorporate the needs of all women, including those who have survived violent relationships and want to rebuild their lives.

That so many women and girls are suffering violence and intimidation from men throughout the world is incredibly distressing and shocking. Women and girls must thrive as equal citizens socially, culturally, economically and politically. I want my granddaughters to work in a safe, happy environment and to be treated as equals at every level. We know that violence against women and girls is about the abuse of power perpetrated by cowardly inadequates. It is our duty to take whatever steps are needed to put an end to it.


Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

Sunday marked the start of 16 days of activism to end violence against women, which includes the #HearMeToo campaign. The initiative dates back to 1979, when the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

Since 1981, women’s rights activists have observed 25 November as the day for the elimination of gender-based violence, to honour three sisters and political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960.

In 1991, the white ribbon campaign, which is a global movement of men and boys who are working to end male violence against women and girls, was formed by a group of pro-feminist men in London, Ontario, in response to the École Polytechnique massacre of female students in 1989. Wearing a white ribbon is a personal pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. For the past three years, men in the Scottish Parliament—indeed all people here—have been urged to wear the white ribbon to mark 25 November.

On 7 February 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 25 November as the international day for the elimination of violence against women, and invited Governments, international organisations and non-governmental organisations to join together and organise activities on that day annually, to raise public awareness of the issue.

Despite that, violence against women and girls remains a pervasive problem worldwide. In global terms, there is still a long way to go if we are to tackle gender-based violence, given that 49 countries currently have no laws that protect women from domestic violence and 37 countries still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim.

According to new data that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has released, an average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day. In its report, “Gender-related killing of women and girls”, the UNODC said:

“Intimate partner violence continues to take a disproportionately heavy toll on women”,

and reported that more than half the 87,000 women who were killed in 2017 died at the hands of people who were closest to them.

The national campaigning organisation Zero Tolerance says:

“Oppression exists in various guises and many forms of violence ... remain poorly understood”.

Education is key to prevention. There is much more still to be done in schools to make girls and boys aware that certain attitudes and behaviours towards women are unacceptable.

The National Union of Students Scotland conducted research and found that one in five students suffers sexual violence or harassment in their first week at university and that 14 per cent of women students had experienced serious sexual violence, the majority of which had been carried out by fellow students. Only 4 per cent had reported the violence to their institution.

In that context, I commend the University of the West of Scotland for its standing safe campaign, which was launched in 2016 and seeks to highlight and address sexual violence on university and higher education campuses. The campaign aims to engage students in reflecting on and changing the harmful attitudes that underpin gender violence. A crucial aspect of the campaign is that it suggests practical measures, such as safe bystander intervention training and a toolkit to ensure that students know how to access support.

Gender-based violence and violence against women can take many forms. I want to highlight one of those forms: human trafficking. The 2017 BBC Scotland documentary, “Humans for Sale”, showed the extent of trafficking of women and girls to be sex slaves, and the extent of sham marriages as a way of facilitating abuse of and control over women and girls who have been trafficked. Trafficking is a crime that is often exerted by organised crime groups and which regularly crosses borders. The fact that it exists not just interstate but intrastate is less well understood.

In 21st century Scotland, it is a horrendous fact that vulnerable young girls are being groomed and then controlled for the purpose of prostitution. As the 2017 documentary revealed, that was particularly evident in the Govanhill area of Glasgow. A group of Govanhill men recently appeared at Glasgow sheriff court to face human trafficking charges. Quite simply, if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere in Scotland.

James Dornan (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

Will the member take an intervention?

Margaret Mitchell

Do I have time to do so, Presiding Officer?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

If you wish to take an intervention, there is some spare time.

James Dornan

Does Margaret Mitchell accept that the police have said over the past couple of weeks that there was no evidence of such child prostitution in Govanhill?

Margaret Mitchell

As far as I am aware, charges are still being pursued, but I am happy to defer to James Dornan if he knows something different.

If today’s debate does nothing else, I hope that it will raise awareness of the fact that I mentioned and encourage members of the public to be vigilant and to report their concerns about any such possible activity, secure in the knowledge that that information will be taken seriously and acted on.


Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

As we know, the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign from 25 November, which is the international day for the elimination of violence against women, to 10 December, which is human rights day, is a time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world. That global reach is vital, and Scotland’s international reputation for developing a range of policies and supports for those who have experienced gender-based violence, or are at risk of it, is strong and positive. However, much more needs to be done. To move towards truly eliminating such violence always necessitates analysing what actions have worked well and what more needs to be done, and always asking: what next? We have heard much about that in the debate.

Culture change across our communities is required to ensure that there is any prospect of a zero-tolerance approach to acceptance of gender-based violence. That needs to happen across every community in Scotland. Speeches in the chamber show a national resolve on such issues, and national legislation and actions that are delivered locally can be of significant help and assistance to those who have suffered gender-based violence. However, gender-based violence still occurs every day in the communities that we serve. Fine words and legislation can show leadership and national resolve, but they will not change the lived experience of too many women in the communities that we represent. Working on the ground with credibility is required to break a culture and cycle of gender-based violence.

I made similar comments in the sister debate to this one that was held around the same time last year. In such debates, we commend local organisations that do exceptional jobs. Therefore, I commended the Women’s Centre Glasgow in Maryhill, which empowers many women and families who need help, support and assistance through the classes and support that it offers. I also mentioned Glasgow Kelvin College, which became the first accredited college in Scotland for White Ribbon Scotland. It recently picked up a green gown award for work that it has done in communities on tackling gender-based violence.

I cannot recall whether I mentioned MsMissMrs, which is a social enterprise that was founded in 2013 to re-empower women and girls through self-development programmes and a wellbeing hub. Just before I started this speech, I was looking at the Official Report of last year’s debate, but I did not get the time to finish what I said. I have visited those organisations, and they all do exceptional jobs.

I am conscious that that is about female self-empowerment. What men are doing to play their part in tackling that culture change in society has to be part of any #MeToo or #HearMeToo campaign. That is why, when I made a similar speech last year, I said:

“I will organise, shape and support a number of events in the communities that I represent at which men can speak up in support of ending gender-based violence against women and girls.”—[Official Report, 28 November 2017; c 56.]

At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought, “Oh, crikey—I had better do something. Actually, we should all do something.”

Ultimately, I worked with the Women’s Centre Glasgow, Glasgow Kelvin College, the amazing Davy Thompson from White Ribbon Scotland and the Association of British Bookmakers Scotland. I pay tribute to Donald Morrison from the ABBS for bringing together the 15 bookies in my constituency—all the William Hill and Ladbrokes bookies—and getting them to appoint a store champion, who is trained at Glasgow Kelvin College under White Ribbon Scotland’s tutelage and supported by the Women’s Centre Glasgow, to get customers to sign the White Ribbon Scotland pledge

“never to commit, condone or remain silent about ... violence against women.”

I do not take any credit—I came up with an idea, but other people had to make it happen. That is what happens with MSPs. The credit must go to the store champions who, with sincerity, credibility, passion and enthusiasm, got 750 men to sign that pledge during the week of action. I know that the minister is involved in a similar initiative, and I wish her well.

Davy Thompson could roll out that approach across Scotland, if the resources and the capacity were available to make that happen. That would not change the world, but we could all take that small step.

I will have to set my challenge for what I will do by this time next year. First, however, I want to mention the Women’s Support Project of Glasgow. I apologise for not having spoken to the organisation before mentioning it. It

“is a feminist voluntary organisation”


“works to raise awareness of the extent, causes and effect of male violence against women, and for improved services for those affected by violence.”

The organisation came on to my radar in preparation for this debate because Maryhill Burgh halls, which is in my constituency, is hosting an event on 12 December on the history of the Glasgow system. That was a shameful time in our city, which saw the collusion of the church, local authorities, police and medical professions to enforce the social repression of women.

The Glasgow system was set up in response to the city’s growing concern about prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases and the so-called moral health of society. In effect, young women were locked up for being, for example, single mums, socialists, mill girls and actresses. Some of those young women had sold sex for money, but none of them had committed crimes. They had no recourse to justice and no right of appeal. That flawed, corrupt system ran until 1958 in my constituency, at Lochburn house. It ended only when the young women rioted to demand better rights for themselves.

The event that I mentioned will tell that story in much more detail than I have time for this afternoon. The Women’s Support Project will seek views about having a commemoration space, with a plaque to remember the women who were incarcerated—not just at Lochburn house, but at Lock hospital and Duke Street prison.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You must close, please.

Bob Doris

That was in 1958! My commitment following this debate is to champion how men can do more in the year ahead and not only remember brave women from the current #MeToo movement, but remember what they have done historically.


Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I am sad and relieved in equal measure to speak in this debate in support of #HearMeToo and 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls. As we have heard, this year’s campaign focuses on the theme

“End Gender-based Violence in the World of Work”.

I am sad because that is still a major challenge. Although “relieved” might seem an odd word to use, I do so because I am relieved that we are collectively working together, far beyond this chamber, to find solutions to gender-based violence.

As a new joint co-convener of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on men’s violence against women and children, along with John Finnie and Rona Mackay, I am very conscious of the responsibilities and the opportunities that that brings to help shape the future and to raise awareness about the continued social, economic and political inequalities that women face every day.

At the last cross-party group meeting, we were joined by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney. We listened to the very wise words of young women speaking about their experiences and the solutions to the issues. I was heartened by the cabinet secretary’s commitment to work with us and to have a further discussion on the issues. One issue that was raised was the absence of policies at board level in some higher and further education institutions, which shows a need to catch up. The cabinet secretary’s offer of further discussion will be taken up.

Today, I will highlight issues for women in rural areas who experience domestic violence. I hear about challenges for women who live in more geographically isolated places. When I discussed the issue with Women’s Aid South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire, it was clear that there are additional rural challenges, which we must all work together to address.

The pressures of rural living can leave abused partners with even more challenges beyond the obvious and painful issues that they all face. Ensuring anonymity in a small community is an issue, as is the lack of support networks and general amenities, along with the logistical challenges of poor transport links and slow and unreliable internet connections, which bring further isolation.

This year’s focus on the world of work is pertinent for women who live in rural areas, as they are often limited by the work that is available in their community, which can mean that they are on low incomes. They might face difficulties in looking for work because of poor internet connections, and they often do not have access to regular and reliable transport to get them to a job. That all conspires to restrict their ability to establish an independent life.

In my region, the charity Healthy Valleys has established the Lanarkshire domestic abuse response project, which provides a range of support and services such as complementary therapies to improve the wellbeing of domestic abuse survivors. Like many charities across Scotland, the project helps women to regain control after an abusive relationship. Part of that control comes from increasing a women’s independent ability to cope emotionally and financially—I stress that word.

I identify myself with Rhoda Grant’s comments on the shocking use of children in the context of relationships in which domestic violence occurs. I also echo the call from the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, in its briefing, for a detailed outline in each council’s local housing strategy of how it will support those who are leaving an abusive relationship. That is necessary because, without the right support, those who are affected by domestic abuse might find themselves homeless. The potential loss of one’s home is a significant consideration when contemplating leaving an abusive partner, and the correct strategies must be in place to support that.

Scottish Labour has developed the paws clause, which would support women who were leaving abusive relationships to have their pets looked after or to take their pets with them. That might seem like a small thing but, when the loss of a pet is one more thing that someone has to face, it can be a big challenge. The Dogs Trust has a service that fosters pets for six months, but the ideal would be for women to keep their pets with them in a refuge and in temporary accommodation.

I am proud to be part of a Parliament that passed legislation to recognise as a criminal offence coercive and controlling psychological abuse, as well as physical abuse. However, as others have said, Scotland’s chief statistician announced today that Police Scotland recorded that 60,000 women were affected by domestic abuse in 2017-18. We must face the fact that we have much further to go to address gender-based violence. We must stop this scourge altogether, and part of that involves ensuring that we have an equal society.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I was a wee bit lax with the first speakers in the open debate and I let them go on a wee bit too long. I will have to be a bit stricter from now on. Members will have up to six minutes, please.


Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

Many years ago, I volunteered with Women’s Aid in Renfrewshire, and when I spoke to the women—it is still the same today—they would say things like, “I am worthless,” and, “He told me it was my fault.” I told them that it is never the woman’s fault. We must get that message across: it is never the woman’s fault.

I cannot get my head round why so much violence is perpetrated by men against women and girls of any age. The campaign that we are debating today—the 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls—is now 27 years old. It was started in 1991 by the Women’s Global Leadership Institute, and it is now 27 years old. Like Claudia Beamish, I am sad that I have to talk about this because it is still going on 27 years later, and the figures that have been quoted by John Finnie and Rona Mackay show that the level of violence is escalating. Although the media has something to do with that, there are obviously other things going on.

If someone is constantly on the end of an abusive relationship, they feel worthless. There is something very wrong with a society in which men think that they can still perpetrate this violence, which is why it is important that we have such debates to highlight the issues, that we debate the issues in this Parliament and that these debates are publicised. I ask the media to please put this out in the newspapers and in other forms of media to let people throughout the world who are suffering this terrible violence know that we, in this Parliament and in others, care for them, are speaking up for them and are introducing legislation to protect them.

The issue goes further than this Parliament. Margaret Mitchell is on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and we discussed the issue when I was a member of the CPA. The issue goes right across the Commonwealth countries. We must put across the message that we will not tolerate violence against women.

I want to talk, in particular, about the strategy that is mentioned in the motion—the Scottish Government’s equally safe strategy—which aims

“to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls”.

I welcome the publication of the first progress report on the equally safe strategy, which shows significant activity and progress, as other members have mentioned. The minister mentioned a total of 118 action points, and those 118 action points fall under four important priority areas:

“ensuring that Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects violence; that women and girls thrive as equal citizens; that interventions are early, effective and maximise the safety of women, children and young people; and that men desist from violence and perpetrators receive a robust and effective response.”

I agree with John Finnie and Bob Doris with regard to the justice system. When my constituents come to me for help, there is sometimes a real barrier there. When we talk to people in the justice system—when we phone up procurators fiscal and so on—although we accept that they are dealing with the law, they have to remember that they are dealing with real people. They have to understand that. I am glad that they are going through training on that, but I think that the training has to go even wider.

Another issue that I want to raise, which the minister also raised, is the everyday heroes event at lunchtime on Thursday, which I am hosting. I look forward to welcoming the minister to that event, which Rona Mackay mentioned as well. The event celebrates the contribution of everyday heroes to the equally safe campaign, bringing together children and young people from across Scotland and the team behind the project.

The everyday heroes programme was designed and co-ordinated by the equally safe participation partnership of young adult experts from the University of Edinburgh’s IMPACT project, Barnardo’s Scotland—which I work closely with, as do other members—Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament. It is absolutely fantastic that the programme was funded by the Scottish Government, and I thank all the people who were involved in it. A hundred and twenty-five children and young people took part in the sessions, along with 17 organisations, and 439 young people took part in the survey. That is a huge number of people across all 32 local authorities. The issues that were discussed included improving services to protect young abuse survivors; tackling gender inequality and societal attitudes; improving education responses; and ensuring that people who are directly affected participate and are listened to, as has been mentioned.

I welcome everyone to committee room 1 on Thursday, between half past 1 and quarter past 2, for what will be a very worthwhile event. It will show the amount of work that the Scottish Government is doing to involve the wider community.

If the debate highlights the very real abuse, in all its forms, that women and girls throughout the world are subjected to, it will have been a positive step, and I welcome it.


Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

I am pleased to speak in this debate on such a critical issue. Violence against women and girls is inexcusable and should never be condoned. It cannot have a place in our society or in any corner of communities worldwide. We know that any woman can be the target of violence, regardless of her wealth, her status in society or the culture that she is immersed in.

The weapons of intimidation and manipulation are often the subtle beginnings of emotional and physical abuse, which can then take the form of violence such as sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, harassment and FGM. The abuse can often result in overwhelming feelings of stigma and shame for women and girls. That cannot be allowed to continue.

Over the past year, we have seen an outpouring of cases centring around sexual harassment and violence against women. Those cases have brought to the fore the dizzying extent of the problem and the underlying attitudes that fuel it. Along with my colleagues, I fully welcome the increasing visibility of the awareness campaigns: they have kick-started a momentum that we must utilise.

The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign does not simply raise awareness; it propels us to action and to necessary change. Prevention is the cure and the key in our policies, in our workplaces, in our schools and in our communities as a whole. Preventative measures must be in place to radically alter the imbalance between men and women and the consequences it has for women’s safety.

Violence against women and girls is not a problem just for war-torn countries or nations where there are human rights violations, although in those instances it is often too easy for us to ignore the problem and subconsciously decide that the geographical distance means we do not have to care as much. Along with the UK, Scotland should assert itself as an active leader in helping countries where women and girls face particularly extreme forms of violence. If we look, violence against women and girls is also a daily occurrence here, and it is happening right on our doorstep. In order to fully support victims and survivors of sexual abuse—not just in Scotland but worldwide—we need to try harder to make sure it cannot happen in the first place.

Although there is clearly a worldwide issue with gender-based violence, we also see its presence and its worrying consequences in Scotland. Domestic violence, which most often occurs in the victim’s home, is becoming an increasing problem. Forced marriages that take place in Scotland, which are often arranged for young teenage girls, are another issue that we cannot afford to ignore. The number of recorded rape crimes was over 2,000 last year, and, as my colleague Annie Wells highlighted, the true scale of FGM instances is thought to be much larger than we realised.

We see the steps that the UK Government has taken to tackle head on the problem of FGM, such as by imposing more legislation and providing greater support for victims, including lifelong anonymity. I hope that the Scottish Government will take those plans into consideration and follow them through to see what Scotland can contribute to ending this terrible and degrading form of violence.

Workplace harassment acts as a particular barrier to women. It is especially dangerous that inequalities can continue due to fear of losing a job or women being wrongly held accountable for the crime. Often, reporting the harassment can be a laborious and frustrating process. Harassment has a damaging effect on working women and our workplaces must be safe spaces to work in, free from a male-orientated culture that encourages gender inequality and harmful barriers for women.

The commitments that have been made so far by the Scottish and UK Governments have been encouraging, to say the least. Ensuring that there is adequate training for employers and employees will tackle the stereotypes that often exist under the radar in our workplaces. Sexual violence prevention programmes will help to inform our understanding of accountability and respect. Encouraging ample support for women and girls will undoubtedly impact their protection and create opportunities in their schools, homes and workplaces.

What can we do? We can offer our support to both the Scottish and UK Governments in their efforts to end violence against women and girls not just in our own countries but in nations overseas. Furthermore, we must ensure that the police force in Scotland receives the appropriate training to deal with that type of violence. I asked the previous Cabinet Secretary for Justice to implement that measure, particularly in relation to domestic abuse.

As recently as 23 November, it was announced that the Foreign Office has boosted funding to prevent sexual violence in conflicts. The extra support will be used to boost the number of expert deployments by the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative’s team of experts, supporting efforts in places such as Syria, Burma and Nigeria. The team of experts will support governments—

John Finnie

In the spirit of consensus, I let two or three previous comments pass. Would the member care to reflect on whether the UK Government’s willingness to return women to those countries is indicative of showing support for women generally?

Maurice Corry

One has to be careful in prejudging anything here. Each case must be looked at individually; one cannot make a general statement on how cases are dealt with. Each has its own particularities to answer for.

I hope that we can further our commitment and see the delivery of promises made to actively tackle violence against women and girls both here in Scotland and internationally. In my role as the male champion for women, representing this Parliament’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I commend the motion to the chamber.


James Dornan (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

“Quick girls, pop your coat and shoes on and get tucked up in bed,” insists a young mother. “But mam, it is not cold. Why do I need to wear shoes in bed?” replies a weary child. The mother sighs, prepared to tell another lie to her three young daughters: “Because it is to get cold during the night,” is the meek reply.

That conversation sounds like a snippet from a Victorian novel, but sadly it is the very real story of a Scottish woman in Glasgow—a woman who had to put her daughters to bed in their jackets and shoes, because more often than not their father would return from the pub ready to beat his downtrodden wife, who would in turn have to grab her beautiful girls in the night and flee from the terror.

As a man, I am often asked why I speak so often in debates about violence against women and the answer is simple. It is because it is men who are the problem. It is a crime facing women, but it is one that is committed by men.

Often when I share my thoughts on gender-based violence, I get a flurry of replies from men who state that women can be abusive too. I am not disagreeing. It would also be correct to say that violence can occur in same-sex relationships. However, we have already heard the statistics. In 2016-17, for example, 80 per cent of the gender-based crimes recorded were against women. If things are to improve, it will not be through women changing their behaviour, but through men changing theirs.

I want to take a moment to remind any man listening to my speech that the following is not acceptable. It is not okay ever to lay your hand on a woman for any reason. There is nothing which permits that—nothing. There is no reason on earth why we should allow a man to force himself on a woman sexually. What a woman is wearing is never an invitation to touch her in any way, shape or form. If you are told “no” it always means no.

Verbal and mental abuse is now a crime. That is one of the great achievements of the Scottish Government. Controlling a woman through her emotions, children or finances is also a crime and will not be tolerated. When a woman walks out of your life, allow her to do so with dignity—stalking and controlling behaviour will also not be accepted, and once again, it is a crime.

I was delighted to hear the minister mention my constituents the Drouets—I like to think that I have become close to Fiona and Germain—and the tragic story of their beautiful and much-loved daughter Emily. They have been the driving force for many of us through this period. It has been sad, but very powerful to see how strong they are and how determined to make something good from such a horrible tragedy.

There are other stories. Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of Women Against Violent Environments—WAVES—in Castlemilk, a magnificent group of women who have suffered from the curse of domestic violence. From that meeting came the following harrowing story of one of the brave women who have used the services of both WAVES and the Daisy Project.

This woman has come forward to share her story anonymously with the chamber and the people of Scotland, to ensure that women never have to go through what she faced. For the sake of anonymity, I shall call her Lady. Lady was in care for most of her life and, at the age of 16, met a man who was 13 years her senior. As many who are in care often do, Lady began a relationship with the man and was subsequently removed from care by social workers. That saw her plunged into the murky world of his alcohol and drug addiction. He started to abuse her physically, mentally and sexually. He beat her and raped her, and she was passed around his friends to be used in a sexual manner. With no money and nowhere to go, Lady remained in the relationship for three years.

She started a job in Glasgow and met a man—her boss—who would reward her good work in her employment with drinks. Lady’s former partner would often come to her work and threaten her, until he was arrested. The relationship started to go downhill when both she and her partner were sacked, as the relationship was seen as inappropriate by their employers. Her partner took to alcohol and that is when the beatings began, and not only from himself—he would allow his teenage son to beat her, too.

Lady escaped to a homeless unit and restarted her life, but, because her partner had controlled her money, life and relationships, she felt like, and was treated like, a non-person. Starting from scratch, she again started a new relationship and had a son who was severely ill. That partner also abused her, as did subsequent partners. What struck me was that the father of her son, who was merciless in his abuse and spent time in jail because of it, was in later years awarded visitation of his son, which not only deeply traumatised Lady but had a deeply damaging effect on her child. Lady insists that the visitation was just a new way to torture her; when he grew tired of it, he grew tired of her son and the visits stopped, leaving her son feeling abandoned.

In a subsequent relationship, this brave woman was arrested on a domestic abuse charge, even though she was, as witnesses testified, the victim. She was told: “We have to take you both—that is the law.” I hope that things have changed to ensure that no officer would ever behave like that again.

In supporting the motion, I support the brave women who have said, enough is enough. The woman in my story is now working with other survivors and, thanks to the support that she has received and her internal strength, she is thriving. I asked her if she had a message for the perpetrators in her story and she simply said, “I would say to them, thank you for allowing me to see that I am better and stronger than you thought I could be.” It is for women like her and the many others that I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate.


Kezia Dugdale (Lothian) (Lab)

l commend James Dornan for an excellent speech: it was raw and honest and difficult to listen to in parts. It is one of many occasions when he has spoken with real leadership on this issue, and I encourage him to continue to do so.

I thank all the organisations who have provided briefings for today, for their tireless work week in, week out, fighting for gender equality, knowing that that is the route to the eradication of violence against women and girls.

The theme of this year’s 16 days of action is women in the workplace, with a particular focus on sexual harassment. To be honest, I find that utterly depressing. We have fought so hard for so long to improve women’s access to employment, through access to education and skills, childcare, financial independence, maternity and paternity leave, equal pay and so on. Women’s participation in the labour market has increased as a consequence, although they are still more likely to work part-time and to get a lower wage than their male counterparts.

Now that women are a major part of the country’s workforce, they have to contend with misogyny, harassment and even assault in their workplaces. #MeToo transcends workplaces across the globe, from Hollywood to Holyrood. Nowhere has been immune, including our own place of work. I do not think that it has been a particularly proud year for us here as employers. Although we took the lead and conducted a brave survey of all staff, the results were stark. The officials in the Parliament, and indeed the Presiding Officer himself, deserve credit for the leadership that they demonstrated and continue to show. However, our response to the #MeToo campaign comes in two parts: promoting a culture of respect and creating a safe reporting environment. I am very proud of the work that the Parliament is doing to create a culture of respect, but there is a distance to go on creating a safe reporting environment.

If we were truly honest with ourselves, I suspect that we would admit that a woman who has been sexually harassed in this place would be less likely to come forward now than she would have been a year ago. In fairness, I think that she might be more likely to do so anonymously, but given that policies here, and the world over, require victims to share their identity for a full procedure to kick in, I think that fewer women would do that now, knowing the consequences for and the experiences of others. The personal and professional risks are still far too high. It is better to stay quiet and keep your head down, as women have done for decades and centuries.

In one high-profile example in the Parliament, the victim and the perpetrator spent a period of time away from this building during the investigation. One is back at work; the other has left for alternative employment. Of course, it is the woman who is no longer here. That represents a failure of the procedures. When a victim feels that they can no longer work in a building with several hundred employees for fear of seeing someone in a lift or finding themselves alone with them in a corridor, we still have a long way to go, despite the heroic efforts of the officials involved, who I know want nothing more than a safe, inclusive environment for all staff.

I do not think that we will make proper progress with workplace harassment until someone develops an anonymous reporting mechanism that incorporates the appropriate safeguards. I would like to see a model where women can anonymously report incidents and perpetrators, knowing that they will be contacted again only if, say, four or five other women report similar behaviour by the same man. A procedure would then allow them to pursue it collectively and formally on a class-action basis, giving them strength in numbers. The idea is similar to the Callisto model that is being pioneered on university campuses across the United States. It is bold and controversial, but what we currently do continues to let women down more often than not.

If we are failing women here in the national Parliament of Scotland, what is it like in normal work places across Scotland? We are kidding ourselves if we consider this a normal workplace. There are women across Scotland just now having to live with their boss’s banter to make sure that they can get a fair share of shifts next week; expecting a squeeze at the Christmas party because that is just what happens; being ordered to wear a short skirt in their bar job because that is what the customers like and they have to do it or be marked down as difficult; and spending an hour’s wage on a taxi home because there are no buses and it is not considered safe to walk home in their own town.

I wish that we were not having this debate. I wish that the theme of this year’s 16 days of action was sexual and reproductive health, so that we could talk about how that is holding women back across the globe, from the HIV epidemic in Africa to the lack of abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland and the trouble that poor women in Scotland have accessing reliable contraception. There is a lot to talk about. We should be talking about the challenges of women everywhere to exercise choice and power over their own bodies, yet still we are left talking about the actions of some men, because they just cannot help themselves.

I would like the Scottish Government to use some of its social advertising budget on a national campaign against sexual harassment, but I want it to be bold. Instead of portraying powerful men exercising power over supposedly weak women, it should focus on the weaknesses of men who act this way and the weak men who stand by them. There should be a real focus on men as bystanders who know that their mates’ actions are not okay but who do not want to be the ones to speak up and speak out, which is something that they demand of women, without a hint of irony. I put that idea to the minister’s predecessor, and I hope that the minister will consider it today.

In conclusion, there can be no end to violence without full gender equality, which is why the pursuit of that is, and must remain, central to all our work.


Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

Like many other members, I am sad that we are having to discuss this issue in Parliament. In following so many powerful speeches that have addressed various subjects, it is difficult to find what I could add to what has been said. I will therefore put on my education hat, as convener of the Education and Skills Committee, and consider issues in relation to our colleges and universities.

I did not know that the Drouet family were going to be here today: I commend them on their tenacity and humanity. It is testament to their love for Emily that they have worked tirelessly to improve the situation for students in our colleges and campuses. I cannot help but feel that if the general population shared that humanity, we might not have to discuss such issues in the future. I hope that that day will come.

I thank NUS Scotland for providing a briefing for today’s debate. After I read it, I had a little look at what is happening elsewhere in the world. I chose to look at the situation in the United States, probably because I was listening to a story on the radio about racial discrimination in colleges in the US.

The NUS research results are quite harrowing. One in four female students reported having experienced unwanted sexual behaviour during their studies, and one in five had experienced sexual harassment during the first week of term. The research showed that 14 per cent of women students had experienced sexual violence.

In the US, one in five women has reported unwanted sexual behaviour. Most women experienced such behaviour during the early stages of university, and 15 per cent of those reported serious assault. The US also has evidence to show that people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community are more adversely affected, and it is suspected that underreporting means that only one in five offences is reported in colleges and universities.

NUS Scotland has been working on the matter and is looking to develop a clear code of conduct and to see a zero-tolerance approach being taken. It is also asking for training for staff on dealing with and recognising such behaviour.

NUS Scotland’s campaigning and partnership work with the Scottish Government has been noted. “Equally Safe in Higher Education Toolkit” was funded by the Scottish Government and published in 2018. It provides a framework for universities to work in partnership to evaluate and improve their policies and practices in working towards eradicating gender-based violence. The Government has announced a further £396,000 of funding to create such a toolkit for further education and to support the implementation of the strategy.

When I was thinking about Emily Drouet earlier, I reflected on my experiences at university. I am thankful that I did not live in the same climate as Emily, with multimedia, mobile phones and Twitter, Facebook and other social media. It was a different time. In 1988, Tracy Chapman released her debut album with a pertinent song called “Behind the Wall”, which is a desperate and hopeless story of a jaded neighbour who hears domestic violence but says

“It won’t do no good to call
The police
Always come late
If they come at all.”

That was challenging at the time because it was not something that people expected from a song, despite the fact that Tracy Chapman is a political folk activist. It challenged all sorts of behaviour, including the attitude of the police, the attitude of the neighbours, the attitude of society and people keeping things behind closed doors. It was very moving.

That was 30 years ago, so I was thinking about whether things have moved on. I think that they have, to an extent. The equally safe strategy has done a lot to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls.

Violent and abusive behaviour that is directed against women and girls just because of their gender is predominantly carried out by men, and often stems from systemic and deep-rooted women’s inequality, as was mentioned by Kezia Dugdale. That includes domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault and commercial exploitation. Sometimes society does not recognise all those things.

We have also talked about financial abuse, coercive control, and human trafficking. Maurice Corry talked about rape as a weapon: I know that Kezia Dugdale has visited Srebrenica, in that context. The Holodomor is an example of starvation being used as a weapon and as violence against women and children in the Ukraine.

We have to recognise all those things and to keep working together. It is not enough just to hear what is going on in the next room. Even though the campaign is #HearMeToo, we have to hear and take action.


Alison Harris (Central Scotland) (Con)

Today, we have heard members speak about the 16 days campaign, which takes place between the international day for the elimination of violence against women on 25 November and human rights day on 10 December, all three of which are in the spirit of reducing and eliminating violence against women and girls.

Over the past 20 years, the campaign has been responsible for more than 5,000 projects in 180 countries. Each project has contributed to supporting some of the millions of survivors of gender-based violence all over the world.

The motion’s title refers to the UN’s #HearMeToo campaign, but I will focus on the 16 days campaign that is referred to in the body of the motion.

Each year, the 16 days of activism campaign focuses on a particular theme. Recently, it has been the theme of ending gender-based violence in education among pupils, parents and teachers. This year, the theme is the workplace. Gender-based violence in the world of work can take several forms, including the action or threat of physical or verbal violence, psychological or financial bullying, and sexual harassment or sexist comments. It is considered to be gender-based if it is directed against someone because of their gender, or if it disproportionately affects a particular gender.

The International Labor Rights Forum has said that

“gender-based violence ... creates a significant hurdle for women ... to realize their collective bargaining power and ... ability to have a voice and seek equal treatment”.

Gender-based violence can also cause severe mental effects that can mean that victims do not want to come into work, or might lack the confidence to push forward in their career.

In some parts of the world, serious physical gender-based violence happens in the workplace all too frequently. In the garment-making industries in several Asian countries employers have been witnessed hiring thugs to intimidate or conduct violence against women who join a union or speak up about their working conditions.

Thankfully, here in Scotland, we do not face such intensity of gender-based violence. However, other forms can be very damaging: rightly, they have been put under the spotlight in the past couple of years. It is fair to say that the most common forms of gender-based violence in the workplace here are verbal abuse, sexist remarks and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can happen in all kinds of workplaces and at any level, as has been shown in recent high-profile cases from Hollywood to Holyrood—as Kezia Dugdale said in her speech.

Gender-based violence is usually experienced by women and perpetrated by men, but it can be the other way around and can also involve people of the same gender. It can be difficult to know what to do about it, especially if a person’s job or prospects are being threatened. They might worry that they will not be taken seriously or that speaking out could have negative consequences.

Steps have been taken here in the Scottish Parliament and throughout the UK to address the culture that has allowed such incidents to occur. Those steps include zero-tolerance policies and safe and secure channels for victims to come forward.

Recently, domestic abuse has come to be considered by campaigners as an aspect of workplace gender-based violence; the effects of the abuse flow into the work environment and affect the victim’s ability to perform their job and to interact with colleagues.

In the US in 2017, about 97 per cent of employed domestic violence victims experienced problems at work because of abuse at home.

This year, the Scottish Parliament passed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which contains measures to create a new offence: behaviour that causes psychological or emotional damage, such as coercive and controlling behaviour, is a punishable offence. That is a step forward in criminalising and reducing gender-based violence.

However, we should continue to think what more we could do. Many people argue that bystander culture has played a significant role in allowing many workplace incidents to happen. That comes down to people’s attitudes. If we intervene at the earliest stage of people’s development and provide them with a well-rounded education, that can have positive effects on their attitudes to other people later in life, when they enter the world of work.

In responding to a Scottish Government consultation recently, the National Day Nurseries Association said this:

“Early identification and intervention is essential to eliminating violence and its negative consequences in women and children's lives.

It is vital that services that come into daily contact with women, children and young people are able to identify those at risk and offer an appropriate, safe and consistent response.”

I agree. Childcare providers and teachers are in a unique position to influence every child at a critical stage of their development. They can identify when things are not right at home, and they can help children to understand what is right or wrong, and to understand topics including gender stereotypes and violence. They can develop children’s attitudes and have a positive effect on how children treat other people when they get older. It is therefore crucial that the best support is available to children at that early stage.

I welcome this year’s 16 days of activism campaign to reduce gender-based violence in the workplace. I back the steps that are being taken around the UK to challenge the climate in which we live and work, in order to ensure that such incidents are not allowed to happen and will no longer be tolerated.


Angela Constance (Almond Valley) (SNP)

Although aspects of this debate are often depressing, as Kezia Dugdale said, it is nonetheless always a privilege to participate in what has become an annual debate in this Parliament on the global 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence. However, ending violence against women and girls at home and abroad is not just a campaign for Christmas; it is a systematic and sustained effort all year round, given that no institution, environment or space is immune, as the minister said.

That is why Scotland’s equally safe strategy, which is our ambition, and our equally safe delivery plan, which is what we do, are so important. Equally safe is important because of its breadth and depth. It rightly recognises that, to end gender-based violence, we need to tackle the root causes of the imbalance of power between men and women and the wider impact of inequality across society when only half the population is invited or included.

We must recognise that rape, sexual assault, murder and all forms of domestic violence are ultimately driven by beliefs; they are not driven by emotions. Men do not lose control, snap or become provoked. The root cause is insidious, accepted misogyny, sexist remarks and the objectification of women.

To challenge behaviours, we need to challenge beliefs. I was encouraged when the Cabinet Secretary for Justice rather eloquently said:

“We must guard against a pervasive misogyny which, unchecked, impacts on the wider health, wellbeing and safety of our communities—breeding a culture where this type of harm is tolerated, sometimes even condoned—and as a result is allowed to continue.”

I look forward to the cabinet secretary’s deliberations on how we reform and strengthen our criminal law to combat misogyny, particularly with regard to how he will take forward the Parliament’s work on hate crime. Throughout this afternoon, we have heard about how misogyny can seep into public policy and even our own Parliament.

It was a pivotal, watershed moment when the Parliament passed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, creating the specific offence of domestic abuse, which covers psychological and emotional maltreatment and coercive and controlling behaviour, as well as physical attacks. As a former prison-based social worker, my view is that that was absolutely crucial, because having an accurate picture of the nature of a crime and having the offence and conviction recorded accurately are crucial to challenging and changing the behaviour of perpetrators.

As a feminist, I am committed to the rehabilitation of offenders, who, largely, are male. Therefore, the expansion of the Caledonian programme is good, as detailed in the equality minister’s progress report.

The work that I did with men, some of whom were very dangerous or disturbed, has never left me, whether that was work on parole reports or risk assessments that limited the freedoms and choices of those men with regard to their futures.

What also has never left me is that some of the most disturbed and dangerous men whom I worked with had experiences—indeed, they had childhoods—that would make us weep. That is never an excuse; individuals will always be responsible for their behaviour and choices. My job as a prison-based social worker was often to get offenders to accept and understand that their history was not their destiny. That brings into sharp focus the need for the work that is now being done on adverse childhood experiences, and the equally safe strategy places an increased priority on prevention—on preventing the violence from occurring in the first place.

I pay tribute to Rape Crisis and its sexual violence reduction programme, which is taking place in schools, for the work being done to increase understanding of consent and healthy relationships. Like others, I very much look forward to meeting those from our everyday heroes project this Thursday afternoon.

In my view, one of the biggest gains from this Parliament is the consensus that has been built up over the years around the analysis, the strategy and the action that we need to take to end violence against women and girls in all its forms. That does not mean that we have agreed—or will agree—on everything or that we should ever be complacent, even for a moment. We need to diligently shed a light on the good, the bad and the indifferent. Our work has led to strong foundations, and we should continue that work together to end violence against women and girls and to make Scotland a safer place for everyone.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

I call Rhoda Grant to close the debate for Labour.


Rhoda Grant

This has been a really interesting debate. Everyone has agreed that more must be done to combat violence against women by putting in place a growing list of actions.

Central to the debate has been equality—equality of power, equality of access to finance and equality of esteem. If we do not have that equality, we will never eradicate violence against women, so we need to work continually on things that will put that right.

A lot of the debate has been about sexual harassment. The #MeToo campaign was mentioned by many members, which is not surprising. Kezia Dugdale gave voice to how we all felt about the anonymous survey that was carried out in Parliament. We all expected better from this workplace; we should be leading and not allowing the behaviour that was highlighted in the survey to occur. I declare an interest, as I was one of the people on the sexual harassment working group. We tried to address some of the issues as part of the work of that group.

Kezia Dugdale talked about anonymous reporting that would trigger an investigation eventually, if a course of conduct—a behaviour—was highlighted. The responses to the questionnaire suggest that some individuals were constantly abusing their power, and we need to deal with that.

Annie Wells talked about the culture of respect workshops and about how we need to change the bystander culture in Parliament in order to encourage people to come forward and tackle abuse when they see it happening.

An imbalance in power and a male culture cause a lot of the problems, as Maurice Corry pointed out. However, that is not always the case: we would not say that this Parliament has a male culture, but such behaviour goes on under the radar and we do not pick it up.

Sexual harassment in the workplace equates to sexual exploitation, because it involves a trade of sex for career progression or, at the other end of the spectrum, for any kind of work. When someone’s boss has control over their zero-hours contract, they are in a very difficult position if their boss wants to abuse their power—ultimately, they might not be able to work. Violence against women relates to the power imbalance, making work and money tools for harassment and exploitation.

Alison Harris and Kezia Dugdale mentioned the fear of reporting and the impact on individuals who report. Perpetrators play on that fear, because they know that people will not report. We need to do something about that to ensure that that fear no longer exists and that we protect those who report harassment.

Several members talked about the justice system, including John Finnie, Sandra White and Angela Constance. We should give credit to Police Scotland: if its setting up did one thing, it was that it changed the police’s attitude to domestic abuse. Since its inception, Police Scotland has taken action to deal with domestic abuse. There are still pockets within the police service that require improvement, but checks and balances have been put in place that make it much easier to report domestic abuse. We are seeing the benefits of that in the increased level of reporting.

The judicial system has improved, too, but it has a lot further to go. We must look at our laws to see whether we can make further improvements to help people through that system by assisting them with the making of statements, the court process and the like.

Liam McArthur mentioned forensic medical examinations. It was unacceptable that people from Orkney and Shetland had to go off island to receive such examinations, sometimes—in fact, most of the time—in the clothes that they were wearing when they were attacked. We must make sure that people have the same access to justice, regardless of where in Scotland they live. Claudia Beamish talked about the additional issues that women in rural areas face with access not just to justice but to escape routes, transport and finance.

It was moving to listen to Angela Constance talk about her experience as a prison social worker and the work that she did with people who had perpetrated such abuse. Work to address that behaviour through things such as the Caledonian programme is important, but we must address it much earlier on. We must ingrain in our young boys and girls that such behaviour is unacceptable. The media must also send that message, and I welcome the work that is being done through the media to stop the imbalance in reporting. Often, the reporting of what happens in our society is very sexist.

I am sure that we all agree that the problem of violence against women is the problem of men’s violence against women—that is why the cross-party group on the issue is called the cross-party group on men’s violence against women and children. It is good to hear that there are men who understand that it is their duty to change the idea that men find it acceptable to abuse women.

Mention has been made of the many organisations that do work in that area, including White Ribbon, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance and the Women’s Support Project. [Interruption.] I join others in congratulating those organisations, and I also congratulate individuals such as the woman who spoke to James Dornan, and Fiona and Germain Drouet, who, despite their own problems and issues, are working to stop other people suffering such abuse.

We must make progress on violence against women, because there is much to do. We need to build a society that supports and values women and treats them equally. I make a plea to the Scottish Government to use all its powers to protect women from the excesses of the UK welfare state, which ingrains that inequality.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I remind all members to have their mobile phones switched to silent; I do not want to hear jingles. Do not start pointing at people, Mr Lyle; it does not become you—you could be guilty next time.


Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to close the debate for the Scottish Conservatives, partly because it is right that we visibly and unitedly welcome the global 16 days of activism against gender-based violence and this year’s theme of ending gender-based violence in the world of work. It is imperative that we publicly commend the many activists and organisations in Scotland and across the world that provide front-line support for survivors and help to raise awareness.

I also welcome the opportunity to close the debate on behalf of the Conservatives because it has been an extremely moving and powerful debate, in which we have had strong contributions from members across the chamber. Rhoda Grant highlighted the fact that, although we are right to reflect on how far we have come, we must be fully aware of how far we still have to go when it comes to eradicating gender-based violence. Maurice Corry gave us a pithy summary of what this is about when he said that violence against women and girls is inexcusable and should never be condoned. It cannot have a place in our society, nor in any community worldwide.

Is it not shocking that it should be necessary to have a specific day of activism to end violence against women and girls? However, as we have heard, sadly it is necessary. Throughout the debate we have heard some absolutely shocking statistics, which bear repeating. There were 60,000 incidents of domestic violence in Scotland in 2017-18. In the world, 137 women a day are killed by their partner or a family member. Some 71 per cent of human trafficking victims are women or girls, and 37 countries worldwide still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim.

Various members mentioned the horror of female genital mutilation. Maurice Corry cited research that suggests that as many as 170,000 girls in the UK have undergone female genital mutilation, although I read earlier that Julie Bindel thinks that the number is much higher. As UN Women has said, at least 200 million women and girls who are alive today have undergone this mutilation, and the majority of girls were cut before they were even five.

In 2015, the UK Government introduced in England and Wales and Northern Ireland female genital mutilation protection orders, a mandatory reporting duty, lifelong anonymity and a criminal offence of failing to protect one’s own daughter. On Friday 23 November, the UK announced that it would make the largest single investment ever to end FGM worldwide by 2030—an extra £50 million. We must see action on the matter now from the Scottish Government as well. The SNP’s programme for government for 2018-19 rightly included a commitment to introduce a female genital mutilation bill. Perhaps the cabinet secretary will update the Parliament on that in his closing speech.

The Parliament is clear that there is still a persistent problem with domestic abuse. James Dornan spoke particularly powerfully and compellingly about that. Much of what he said was very difficult, but it is absolutely right for it to be heard. Statistics today show that domestic violence is on the rise for the second year in a row. Last year, the police dealt with over 163 domestic violence calls each day, but only 44 per cent of those resulted in a crime or offence being recorded. In addition, picking up on a point that James Dornan made, I note that 82 per cent of incidents had a female victim and a male accused.

Rona Mackay was absolutely right to highlight the efforts that this Parliament has made, including the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. I was pleased to hear Sandra White reference the Solicitor General for Scotland, Alison Di Rollo QC, who said just this morning that lawyers and judges need to be given specialist training on how to implement and use the new laws on domestic abuse. However, as we have heard, there is so much more to be done.

On that note, John Finnie flagged up the link between victim blaming and domestic abuse. Unlike in England, where there was reform about a decade ago, we in Scotland still have a defence of provocation such that, if a man murders his wife for her infidelity, he can plead that defence, and assuming that the reaction was sufficiently proximate, the crime will be reduced to culpable homicide. That is not gendered in law, but I respectfully suggest that it is frequently a gendered issue, and a number of commentators are suggesting that the area needs to be looked at for reform. Again, I would appreciate it if the cabinet secretary could give his views on that in his closing speech.

Many members offered some solutions. Maurice Corry said that the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence exist not simply to raise awareness but to propel us to action and to necessary change. Many members suggested that prevention is key—in our policies, our workplaces, our schools and our communities. That is fundamental. Margaret Mitchell mentioned Zero Tolerance’s view that education is key to prevention and that there is more to do to make both girls and boys aware that certain attitudes and behaviours towards women are unacceptable.

Presiding Officer, I think that I have only six minutes. Is that correct?

The Deputy Presiding Officer


Liam Kerr

In conclusion, then, I am pleased to join Parliament in welcoming the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. The motion is right to flag that we must stand together with

“the many activists and organisations, both in Scotland and across the world”

to raise awareness,

“challenge the underlying attitudes and inequalities that perpetuate violence against women and girls”

and above all send

“a clear message that violence against women and girls is never acceptable”.

It is not, it never has been and it must never be. We all have a responsibility to challenge harassment and abuse and to do all that we can to build a Scotland where everyone can live equally safely.


The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Humza Yousaf)

Today’s debate has been incredibly powerful and we have heard incredibly insightful speeches. I thank all members who spoke: they have given me and the Government a lot to think about. I am also grateful for the very consensual way in which members of all parties are uniting to address the important issue of tackling violence against women.

I thank the many individuals who have shared their life stories, or the stories of a loved one, to highlight the pervasiveness of violence against women in our society. I pay particular tribute to Fiona and Germain Drouet, who are in the gallery. They have told the story of their daughter Emily, and anyone who has read just snippets of some of the text messages that Emily received will be haunted by them. Her story is a stark reminder of how pervasive the problem is in our society.

The 16 days of activism are an opportunity to champion progress that has been made, to celebrate the accomplishments of the people who work tirelessly, day in and day out, on the issue, and to recommit ourselves to tackling the issue.

Only months ago, this Parliament voted unanimously to pass the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. I suspect that, for many of us who were in the chamber at the time, the stage 3 debate and vote on the bill will remain in our minds for a long time. I remember how emotional the occasion was for my predecessor Cabinet Secretary for Justice, and I think that we will all remember the reaction of the women in the gallery to the vote. It was a historic moment in the history of devolution.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 will strengthen the law in relation to domestic abuse by making coercive and controlling behaviour a criminal offence, to reflect the reality of domestic abuse. On that reality, some members mentioned the official statistics that have just been released. It is worth saying that four out of five victims of domestic abuse—by far the majority—are women and that, in 2016-17, 88 per cent of incidents took place in the home. The dwelling should be a place of sanctuary, and for most of us it is, but for the women who suffered domestic abuse it was a place of hell and the most unimaginable violence and abuse.

I want to ensure that we all work together, regardless of our Government portfolios and our interests in the Parliament, to send a clear message that domestic abuse simply will not be tolerated and will be dealt with under the law. The law is one of the important tools in our toolkit for fighting domestic abuse and violence against women; education is another, to which I will come.

A couple of members asked about progress in relation to the commencement and enforcement of the 2018 act. The act will be fully commenced by spring next year. The reason for that timescale is to enable the police and others to be trained in the new provisions, as many members know, and to give us time—I hope—to prepare a public awareness campaign, in co-ordination with the many good organisations that lead on the issue.

Domestic abuse is only one form of violence against women, in a spectrum of behaviours. The theme of this year’s campaign is ending gender-based violence in the world of work. Kezia Dugdale, in particular, made an extraordinarily powerful speech about the world of work and the challenges that we in this Parliament—and anyone who is listening to or watching the debate—must face up to in the workplace. We must not sit back and condone such behaviour or accept that things are the way that they have to be; they simply do not have to be that way.

Harassment is not a problem that is specific to any one institution; it is the responsibility of all society, and it is for individuals to take action. I pay tribute to James Dornan in particular for an excellent speech. As men, we have to face up to the fact that we—although not all of us by any stretch of the imagination; nobody is suggesting that—are the problem. Men and their behaviour, which toxic masculinity is part of, are the problem but, equally, we can be part of the solution. That is what the 16 days of activism campaign tries to reinforce, and it does that very well.

Any man who doubts how difficult it is to be a woman in our society in 2018 should talk to his sister, as I have done, or to his wife, partner, daughter or mother. He should talk to any woman in his life and ask her about the challenges—the sexism, the misogyny and the harassment—that she has had to deal with. I promise that the conversation will not be a short one; I am afraid that it will be long. There will be things that we men were probably never aware of. I was never aware of the fact that, every time my sister walks down the street in the dark, she holds her keys. I said that to a couple of my colleagues, who said, “Yes, we all do that.” That is the kind of society that we live in. As men, we should be utterly ashamed of the fact that, because of our toxic masculinity and our actions, women feel the need to take such actions. They do not feel safe in their own homes and in their own society.

I am conscious of the time and am keen to try to address some of the issues and answer some of the questions that many members have raised.

Annie Wells and Liam Kerr in particular asked for an update on female genital mutilation. I will not go into everything that we have done but, on the potential legislative framework, a consultation opened on 4 October and it will close on 4 January. I am sure that Annie Wells and Liam Kerr and others will respond to that consultation. Once it is closed, we will, of course, update the Parliament on taking it forward. We are very committed to taking forward legislation and further action on that front.

I can confirm to John Finnie that, as part of the equally safe delivery plan, we work with key justice partners to provide training to sheriffs and other professionals who work in the justice system so that trauma-informed responses are embedded throughout. I have met enough victims of sexual offences, harassment and rape to understand that, from the moment that a terrible incident takes place right the way through the police investigation to the court trial—if the case ever gets to court, of course—the potential imprisonment of the offender and the release of the offender, there are undoubtedly gaps. The victims task force that I announced will look specifically at sexual offences and rape as part of its work.

I thank Liam McArthur for acknowledging my predecessor’s work on forensic medical examinations and the work that we are committed to do. I will come back to him on specific questions about Orkney. We have a long way to go, but I commend the work of Dr Catherine Calderwood and the task force in that regard and the work that she is taking forward.

One or two members—I cannot remember specifically who—asked about protective orders or emergency banning orders. In our programme for government, we said that we would consult on them at the end of the year. We are hurtling towards the end of the year, and the plan is still to get that consultation out before Christmas.

Angela Constance asked about the Government’s plans in relation to misogyny. I am sure that she has seen our consultation on hate crime. There is a section in that that asks for the views of people and organisations on that issue specifically. I will listen to what people have to say about how to tackle misogyny. We may look at tackling it outwith the hate crime framework—it might be more sensible to do that—but I will reserve judgment on that. I am due to meet Engender and a number of other organisations very shortly to discuss that issue with them, and I am keeping an open mind on that.

I touch on Kezia Dugdale’s point about a public awareness-raising campaign. She has given me, and the Government, a lot of food for thought to reflect on. We plan to do a campaign in spring 2019, so I will perhaps come back to her in order to hear her thoughts in a bit more detail.

Perhaps I will use the campaign as a way to engage with the cross-party group and ask for its help in informing what the campaign should look like. We will, of course, consult the usual stakeholders, including Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender and Zero Tolerance—and many more, I am sure.

Liam Kerr asked about provocation as mitigation. The issue came to my attention only recently. Like Liam Kerr, I was astounded by what I heard. I do not have an answer for him, other than that I will look at the issue. I will keep him updated. Whether that issue needs legal reform is worthy of examination.

This has been an excellent debate. I am aware that I am at the very end of my time, Presiding Officer. We will continue to do what we can not just in these 16 days of activism, but throughout our time in government, to make sure that violence against women becomes a thing of the past, and we will work collaboratively with members across the chamber to achieve that end.