BME and migrant women experience higher rates of domestic homicide, are more likely to be living in a deprived area or in poverty (40% live in poverty) and have more experience of the State care system than any other women in the UK. Of BME women who experience violence only 37% make a formal report to the police and over one in four BME women have no recourse to public funds (Imkaan, Vital Statistics, 2010). BME victims of violence are more likely to lack knowledge and information about the UK justice system, and those who seek legal help experience huge difficulty accessing specialist legal advice given cuts to legal aid, ‘no recourse to public funds’ rules, and a lack of regional lawyers with an understanding of BME women’s issues.
Sisters For Change has been working in partnership with BME women’s sector in the UK since January 2015, strengthening the legal capacity of BME frontline service providers, building confidence in using law as a tool to achieve better social outcomes and remedies for BME women victims of violence, and enhancing the capacity of the BME women’s sector to monitor State obligations under domestic and international human rights law.
We launched our 2017 report, Unequal Regard, Unequal Protection: Public authority responses to violence against Black and Minority Ethnic women in England at the House of Lords in London. Produced in collaboration with five BME Violence Against Women service providers – Angelou Centre (Newcastle), Apna Haq (Rotherham), Panahghar (Coventry & Leicester), Ashiana (Sheffield) and London Black Women’s Project (London), the report presents the most extensive analysis of public authority responses to violence against BME women to date, with a scope that ranges from an evaluation of current practices of commissioning and funding of BME VAW service providers, to a legal analysis of the weaknesses and failings in current public authority and criminal justice responses to BME victims of domestic abuse and slavery, domestic homicide, trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
Sisters For Change, in partnership with The Manchester Maya Project, a consortium of specialist BME VAW service providers, has conducted extensive research to examine local authority approaches and responses to domestic abuse; commissioning and funding of domestic abuse services across Greater Manchester. Working directly with three specialist BME VAW support services – Saheli, Wai Yin and Ananna – we have documented the experiences of BME women victims of domestic abuse living in Manchester and the challenges they face in accessing statutory services and support in Manchester. We have reviewed a wide range of cases to assess how local authorities and welfare and health services in Manchester respond to BME women victims of domestic abuse. Our case evidence raises serious questions as to the compliance of local services with their homelessness, safeguarding, equality and human rights duties in relation to BME women victims of domestic abuse.
In publishing this report, Sisters For Change and The Manchester Maya Project partners seek in the short term to inform the development of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Violence Against Women and Girls strategy (due to be published later in 2019) and Manchester City Council’s current review of its approach to commissioning domestic abuse services and in the longer term to improve and strengthen responses to BME women victims of violence by local authorities and statutory agencies across Greater Manchester.