Joanne Payton, long-time volunteer for IKWRO, blogs about the new bill passed by the Welsh Assembly yesterday.

Yesterday in the Welsh Assembly, Members unanimously passed the new Violence Against Women bill. This landmark act almost failed at the last moment, however, when women’s rights campaigners threatened to block the bill unless it included provisions to integrate schools into the country-wide scheme to prevent gender-based violence, calling for each school to have a person with the training responsible for dealing with issues of violence and abuse in the home, and for healthy relationships to be part of PSHE classes.

Last minute concessions have saved the bill.

As a long-time supporter of IKWRO, I appreciate the potential of the education system to raise awareness of women’s human rights and provide support systems to young people at risk of harm. However, many schools are failing to support their pupils: we still hear of teachers who shrug, and tell girls ‘it’s their culture’ to be forced into marriage and raped.

In the Welsh Migration Partnership’s Uncharted Territory report (which I co-authored), investigating the domestic violence affecting asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant women Wales, we recommended that:

‘Healthy Relationships’ education should sensitively address a variety of patterns of violence within the family, in all primary and secondary schools in Wales in order that girls at risk of forced marriage, ‘honour’- based violence, FGM and other forms of abuse can have confidence that their concerns are understood and that there is support available to them. These topics should be broached early in the programme, given that these issues may affect girls at young ages.

It is important to establish that in Wales, and in the rest of the UK, young people who may be suffering from various different kinds of violence still have the #RightToKnow, and the ability to seek help, regardless of their identity and background.

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