Photographs in newspapers last week showing Charles Saatchi grabbing the throat of his wife Nigella Lawson have provoked a debate about male violence towards women. Mr Saatchi accepted a police caution for the assault showing that it was not a “playful tiff’ as he originally claimed.
I was worried when our deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggested on a radio phone-in that this was a “fleeting” exchange as he dithered over whether he would have done anything about it if he had been there . When he asked the female caller if she would have intervened, she said she would because “I’m a protector”, something Nick Clegg clearly is not.
This violence is dangerous. Two women are murdered every week by their partners in Britain. And I think to be murdered or hurt by the man you love makes it an especially serious crime.
I have always campaigned for equality and for protection of women from the violence which is all too common around the world. The World Health Organisation published figures showing that over a third of women worldwide have been the victims of violence, most of them being subjected to that violence by their partner.
Governments can and should play a powerful role in protecting women. Britain’s aid programme supports work to protect women in conflict zones from rape and sexual violence. Last month several nations, including the United States, issued a statement to declare violence against women and girls "a major global public health, gender equality and human rights challenge, touching every country and every part of society" and proposed and discussion on the topic for the next World Health Assembly.
Local action can make a difference too. In Slough a year ago I worked with East Berkshire Women’s Aid to win a grant to provide an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) within the A&E department at Wexham Park Hospital. I have persuaded the hospital to continue funding the role. An expert in the hospital can help women who have just been hurt, when they are more likely to report their abuser, the IDVA also trains hospital staff and helps to prevent repeated attacks on the same woman meaning fewer victims facing less harm. .