It is impossible, in doing the work we do, not to bump up uncomfortably, repeatedly, against the three-headed monster that is gendered violence. On any given day, we work with women who are currently or have in the past experienced assault and harassment, domestic violence, or violence perpetrated against them by the authorities. Often these different strains of violence overlap and intersect. In the case of Sarah Everard, this violence came together in an unconscionable way. We, the team at English for Action London, extend our deepest condolences to the family of Sarah Everard, and to everyone who has been impacted, directly or indirectly, by her passing.
Moving through this city, which belongs to all of us, should never be inaccessible to any part of our population. Nor should protest. As such, we also condemn the further violence committed by police against attendees at the Clapham Common vigil conducted in honor of Sarah on Saturday evening.
Amongst our community of EFA students — all of whom are migrants, refugees or people seeking asylum in the UK — we have seen, unfortunately, the many faces of gendered violence. They are often compounded by language barriers, systemic racism, immigration status, stigma, access to public funding (or the lack of thereof), and/or poverty.
It has been an ongoing process for us at EFA to improve the way in which we speak about and address gendered violence — an effort that has included supporting our students in starting a Muslim women’s group in Wandworth to tackle gendered Islamophobia, joining the All Women Count campaign led by Women for Refugee Women, and partnering with organisations like Latin American Women’s Aid, the Voice of Domestic Workers, and Latin American Women’s Rights Service to support their work and their beneficiaries through ESOL education and organisational support.
The UK parliament has the authority to pass or change existing laws that would directly affect both the wellbeing of women and that of migrants. First, the government’s Domestic Abuse bill was set to be discussed by the House of Lords today. In its current form, it excludes migrant women from protection, meaning an already marginalised group will be put at further risk if the bill is passed as such.
Second, and related, is the proposed elimination of the No Recourse to Public Funds rule in place for many migrants. This campaign to #ScrapNRPF, spearheaded by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, would both benefit migrants struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it would enable victims of domestic violence to access refuges and DV support currently inaccessible to them.
Finally, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 would extend powers of the police to further inhibit public demonstration and to infringe upon the civil rights and liberties of British residents — in particular those of BAME communities. It would also impose stricter penalties for damaging statues than for committing acts of violence against women and girls. By the government’s own admission, this would have a disproportionate effect on BAME groups, who are already over-policed and under-protected.
Through this week and beyond, we will be sharing links and information about how and why to get involved in actions surrounding this legislation and broader campaigning efforts meant to protect women and migrants to the UK. Follow the hashtag #EFAxVAWG to stay informed.