Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice
The Welsh Government has always been clear about its commitment to end violence against women and girls, domestic abuse and sexual violence. These are societal problems which require a societal response.
I am sure you will all be aware of the media focus in recent months on harassment and abuse involving high profile organisations, including some Welsh public sector bodies. I recognise that these reports are a matter of deep concern. Shocking examples of breaches of public trust by some in positions of authority have highlighted the dangers posed, not only to the individuals who are harassed or abused by those who they should be able to trust, but also to wider confidence that public institutions are committed to ending violence against women in all its forms.
To change this, we must confront the abuse directly, by supporting survivors and challenging cultural attitudes and beliefs that lead to abusive behaviours.
Our Programme for Government commits to strengthening the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Strategy to include a specific focus on workplace harassment, as well as the home and in public places, in order to make Wales the safest place to be a woman.
The Welsh Government published our new five-year VAWDASV National Strategy 2022-2026, which includes a commitment to tackle “sexual harassment and violence, and the behaviours which enable it, in all parts of our society.” The Strategy will be delivered through a collaborative ‘blueprint approach’ which brings together relevant authorities as defined in the Act, as well as devolved and non-devolved organisations. This approach strengthens the partnership between public, private and specialist sectors to help bring about a whole-society change.
Our ground-breaking Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 also created duties on local authorities and health boards in Wales to publish and implement strategies for addressing these issues in local communities. These strategies are kept under review by my officials and the VAWDASV National Advisers.
As part of the blueprint structure, I co-chair the National Partnership Board with Dafydd Llewelyn, lead Police and Crime Commissioner for Wales. The board will oversee the Strategy’s delivery and the six blueprint workstreams.
One of the workstreams is ‘Workplace Harassment’, which will provide a focus and expertise for an innovative approach to these issues, aiming to ensure that workplaces are safe for employees. It will also ensure employers have the tools, skills, structures, and leadership to deal with breaches when they do happen. Some of this work will involve blueprint partners ensuring we have the right policies and processes in place in our own organisations.
The action plan for this workstream will involve gathering evidence of what works and promoting excellent practice, shared communications and awareness raising and tools such as public procurement, to ensure that HR policies are effective at reducing and responding to workplace harassment. Through our Live Fear Free campaigns, we will continue to tackle negative attitudes and raise awareness of stalking, harassment, abuse and violence against women in all aspects of life including the workplace and public places. These campaigns provide practical advice for those who may be suffering harassment or abuse as well as highlighting the support available to enable friends, family, and the wider community to recognise abuse and take safe action.
Harassment, abuse and violence are daily occurrences for some women and have conditioned their lives for far too long. We are committed to challenging and addressing these damaging attitudes and behaviours head on. We will continue to work with our regional advisors and crime and justice partners to shape and fund services for those who display these harmful behaviours; providing opportunities for change and to end these cycles of abuse. Through our Call Out Only and Live Fear Free campaigns, as well as supporting survivors, have seen a steady rise in calls from people seeking support to end their own abusive behaviours.
Women and girls have the right to be safe in all aspects of their lives. They should feel safe and supported when reporting harassment or abuse. They should be safe in all public spaces. They should be safe at home, at work, and at school or university. They should be safe in the day and safe at night. It is not for women to modify their behaviour; it is for abusers to change theirs. Welsh Government’s whole-society approach to tackling violence against women based on prevention and early intervention will help us to directly challenge and change these behaviours.
We are committed to challenging and addressing misogyny and long-standing structural inequalities, negative attitudes and harmful behaviours head on, in partnership with key partners in public, private and specialist sectors, so that all women and girls in Wales can live fear-free.