As Equally Safe states, our approach to tackling violence against women and girls is drawn from the UN definition of gender based violence. Whilst there is broad consensus that this is right, understanding continues to be variable both in terms of theory and application. We will therefore work with COSLA and the third sector to continue build understanding of what taking a gendered approach to tackling violence against women and girls means in practice, and look to reflect this in the development and publication of a guidance note for partners.
Across the world, violence against women and girls is one of the most grievous violations of human rights, and is recognised as such in international human rights treaties of which gender equality is a central component. The Scottish Government is committed to putting human rights at the heart of our approach to Government, and we will continue to work with civil society to safeguard both the Human Rights Act and the human rights and equality protections set out in EU law. But human rights go well beyond civil and political rights, and we are also committed to action that gives effect to the vitally important economic, social and cultural rights set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the European Social Charter and other treaties. We will undertake a comprehensive audit on the most effective and practical way to further embed the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  into policy and legislation, including the option of full incorporation into domestic law.
In this context, we will continue to respond positively to recommendations from international human rights treaty bodies and contribute actively to UN and Council of Europe examinations of the UK record on human rights. Examples of recent reviews we have participated in include the Universal Periodic Review ( UPR) in 2017  and the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Preventing Violence against Women in April 2014  . We will publish a report in 2017 setting out Scotland’s response to the UPR, as well as set out in further detail the actions we are taking to give effect to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women  ( CEDAW). And we will continue to work to ensure that we are fully compliant with the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women  (known as the Istanbul Convention), and work with the UK Government as they move towards ratifying this important instrument.
We will also continue to play our part as a responsible nation through our International Development programme in our sub-Saharan African partner countries  . We will take forward project work in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to ensure that women are empowered politically, economically, socially and culturally. The mainstay of this will be delivered by our Police Scotland capacity building programme which focuses on child protection and alleviating gender based violence in those countries. In addition, the women and children’s scholarships which we continue to fund via the British Council in Pakistan will contribute to the overall aim of empowering women and girls. More generally, we will seek to use opportunities when in engaging in Europe and the wider world to promote Scotland’s approach to tackling violence against women and girls, and engage in dialogue with our international partners on best practice.
It is important to continually emphasise that when we talk about violence against women and girls, we are talking about a continuum of violence. That continuum includes many different forms: domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, commercial sexual exploitation and so called ‘honour based’ violence. We will take action to tackle specific types of violence, whilst also ensuring that our efforts to embed primary prevention, build the capability and capacity of mainstream and specialist services and deliver a strong Justice response for victims and perpetrators have a positive impact across this continuum. To ensure that we strengthen our efforts to tackle commercial sexual exploitation, we will establish a multi-agency group to develop steps designed to reduce the harms associated with this kind of violence, support women to exit and tackle in a holistic way the issues that can lead to someone becoming exploited in this way. We will also continue to convene a multi-agency group to implement our National Action Plan to tackle Female Genital Mutilation, as well as our Forced Marriage Network to address issues and develop best practice in responding to this practice.
The definition we have adopted of violence against women and girls explicitly includes children of all genders as subject to harm through violence and we will also seek to reflect this in our delivery plan. We will continue to strengthen links with the Child Protection Improvement Programme  , the Action Plan on internet safety for children and young people  , the Action Plan to tackle child sexual exploitation  , and the Child Abuse Prevention Framework  which will be an integral part of our National Child Abuse Prevention Plan. We will also strengthen links with work to tackle Adverse Childhood Experiences ( ACEs), which is focused on supporting the resilience of children and adults in overcoming early life adversity across all areas of life. We will develop a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment with the assistance of children’s organisations, and use this to inform our approach going forward.
This is a plan to tackle violence against women and girls, and it is right that we take this focus – the evidence set out earlier indicates that these different forms of violence are overwhelmingly experienced on the basis of gender. It should be remembered that men and boys also experience these different forms of violence along with domestic abuse. We will therefore engage with stakeholders to explore how these different forms of violence impact on men and boys and discuss what more the Scottish Government and others could be doing in this area.
We will also look to develop our intersectional approach to this work by increasing recognition of the particular experience of different groups of women and girls, better understanding the additional vulnerabilities and barriers that exist for those with intersectional identities, and through engagement with different groups and stakeholders to understand these issues better. This includes minority ethnic women and girls, refugees and asylum seekers, LGBTI people, disabled women and girls (including those with learning disabilities), and women of different ages and stages of life. We have developed a draft Equality Impact Assessment to support this delivery plan, and will seek views from stakeholders on it whilst using it to inform our work going forward. We have already identified mechanisms to sharpen engagement with particular communities, including the minority ethnic women’s network and Disabled People’s organisations  , and we will continue to explore ways in which to engage with women and children from all walks of life.
Equally Safe already commits us to ensuring accountability, with assessment of progress so we can demonstrate a reduction over time in all forms of violence against women and girls. We are in the process of refreshing the National Performance Framework, and will seek to embed the Sustainable Development Goals – including Goal 5, which calls for gender equality and the true empowerment of women and girls globally. We will also publish a Gender Equality Index to tackle indicators of progress relevant to women’s equality.
For Equally Safe itself, we have finalised and included within this Delivery Plan an outcomes framework with identified indicators to demonstrate progress. We will now develop supporting tools for local violence against women partnerships to improve data capture and measurement in their area. And nationally, we will use revised governance arrangements to step up our scrutiny of progress across the Equally Safe outcomes framework.
We will also continue to engage with the wide range of stakeholders who are involved in this work and aim to promote a collaborative approach to tackling this issue. We will seek to broaden our engagement to include wider buy in to Equally Safe as well as to ensure our own perspective and approach is informed by the expertise of those delivering on the front line. Part of this will include refreshed governance arrangements for Equally Safe outlined under ‘Next Steps’, but it also means direct engagement as and when appropriate and we will work with the national violence against women intermediary organisations to take this forward.
And we cannot forget that the best people to shape the approach to tackling violence against women and girls are those women and children with lived experience. We have been supporting two pilot programmes of participation (one with women, one with children and young people) to inform the actions within this Delivery Plan, along with the ‘Power Up Power Down’ project on child contact in cases of domestic abuse. The recommendations from these are being published shortly, and we’ll respond formally to these as well as continue to engage with these participation groups to shape next steps in terms of implementation. In the medium term, we will consider the learning from these participation projects and use that both to inform the implementation of a sustainable model of participation that ensure that the voices of women, children and young people shape policy and practice in this area.
This ambitious programme of action, along with the priority actions set out in the rest of the Delivery Plan, will help us to make progress towards a country where women and girls live free from violence and abuse – and the attitudes and inequalities which perpetuate it.