VAWG Strategy

MQT on 2018-03-22
Session date: 
March 22, 2018
Question By: 
Susan Hall
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Could you please, in a swift and pithy manner, outline your Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy?

Supplementary Questions: 


Answer for VAWG Strategy

Answer for VAWG Strategy

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you very much for your question.  On 9 March [2018] I published my Strategy to tackle violence against women and girls and the misogynistic attitudes that allow these crimes to continue, backed by a record £44 million investment up to 2020.  The Strategy is 99 pages long.  I want to make London the safest city in the world for women and girls and that means every Londoner and every organisation playing their part to promote equality and to challenge sexist and misogynist attitudes wherever they are encountered.


My new wide-ranging Strategy follows the biggest in-depth consultation with survivors, as well as Londoners, police and partners.  It includes measures to tackle rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation (FGM), trafficking, controlling behaviour, forced marriages, stalking, harassment and misogyny, building on the recent international #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns.  The Strategy puts forward a comprehensive package of measures to intervene and prevent violence against women and girls, to tackle dangerous individuals who pose a risk in our communities, and to improve services for victims who have already suffered so much.


On prevention, we will improve safety in public spaces, including a new Women’s Night Safety Charter, continuing to tackle unwanted sexual behaviour on the transport network, and a new campaign to tackle attitudes of everyday sexism and misogyny.


On perpetrators, I am investing £4 million in programmes to tackle stalking and I am working with police and criminal justice partners to ensure the most effective handling of dangerous individuals, providing over £3 million to expand the rehabilitative Drive project.


On supporting victims, we are investing £200,000 to support on London Councils’ Harmful Practices programme, training nurses, midwives and social workers to recognise abuses such as FGM and to intervene.


Susan Hall AM:  Thank you, Mayor.  Your Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy is indeed      99 pages long and yet you have decided to devote just one page plus a couple of very small other mentions to FGM.  This is a very serious subject in the context of abuse to women.  National Health [Service] (NHS) figures show that health professionals have identified 2,500 cases of FGM in London alone and that is 50% of all the cases in the country.


Do you think one page does justice to the weight and seriousness of a subject that you so rightly define within your one-page as child abuse?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am not sure if I would characterise the entire Strategy on FGM as the one page, as you called it, in the document.  It is an issue we take very seriously, which is why it is backed up by investment and why, in the additional monies that I allocated to policing in the last budget hearing, we allocated additional money to FGM.


I have also looked at the report from the Assembly on FGM, which the Chair, Jennette Arnold [OBE AM] has done a foreword for, and all the recommendations in there are things that our policies are doing.


Susan Hall AM:  If you take it so seriously, Mayor, I would suggest that it warrants far more than one page.  Lots of other subjects had far more than just one page.


Within this one page, I would like to bring your attention to a paragraph in it.  There has been a drive in recent years to empower the police around FGM and focus on achieving prosecutions.  Despite this, you wrote the following statement in the Strategy:


“While legislation has provided the tools to take action, many believe there is too much emphasis on prosecutions and we are aware that some consider this not to be in the interest of the child, who may suffer additional trauma if their family is broken up through the prosecution of parents or other relatives.”


I understand that since this has been highlighted, your Office has been forced to clarify that this is not necessarily your view, which I am very relieved to hear, but do you actually think it was necessary to give credence to those thoughts on this one page containing all the information that you were going to give on FGM?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I would find it astonishing if anybody was trying to make cheap party points on FGM or trying to mislead the Assembly because, if you read on, it says ‑‑


Susan Hall AM:  Yes, I know.  I have read it.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  If you read on, it says:


“We advocate for enforcement action to take place alongside efforts which focus on prevention and encourage local areas to invest in provision which supports women and girls at risk of FGM in London.”


It also goes on to talk about the work taking place on enforcement.  It says, for example - and I am sure you are not misleading the Assembly - that “the MPS has our full support in seeking to arrest and prosecute more perpetrators”.  It is funny how you did not read that bit on the page but you read the previous bit.


Susan Hall AM:  I can assure you I have read ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Some would say you are trying to mislead the Assembly to make cheap points on FGM.


Susan Hall AM:  No, I am sure every Assembly Member who needs to has read the 99-page document and I am sure many of them cannot understand why there is just one page on FGM if you are so interested in it, which you purport to be.  I have never seen anything like that written around domestic violence.  One could quite happily say that some would say, “Ignore domestic violence because, if you do anything, it will break the family up”, but of course we would not say that.  It is too serious.  FGM is very serious, Mr Mayor, to dedicate one page out of 99 pages to it without any promise of where we are going.  We must consider that we still have not had one prosecution and 50% of all cases are in London.  I would suggest that you should be taking this far more seriously, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is quite astonishing that this Assembly Member holds the Mayor accountable for the actions of judges, juries and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).  It is quite astonishing, but that is what we expect from people who want to make cheap points on FGM.


The reality is that our Strategy talks about tough enforcement.  The subheading - which was not read out, again, by the Assembly Member - was “A stronger response to harmful practices”.  Enforcement is crucial.  So is education and community engagement.  Why do we know so?  The Assembly, of which she is a Member, told me so in its report a few weeks and months ago.


Look, I appreciate the challenges there are for the Assembly Member to make party points at MQTs, but not on FGM.  That is beneath even her.


Susan Hall AM:  You are very often rude, Mr Mayor, but you have excelled yourself today.  My point is that it is your Strategy - yet another Strategy, let me point out - that has absolutely no key performance indicators in it and absolutely no direction of where it is going, which strategies should.


My actual point - and I do not make it as a cheap political point - is the fact that many of us around this table think FGM is worthy of a great deal more than one page in a 99-page document.  In truth, one has to wonder whether you wanted it in there at all because there are lots and lots of pages on misogyny and domestic violence - and quite rightly, too - but one measly page on FGM.  Perhaps we should make that clear to all these associations and charities that are doing their very best to bring this to the attention of everybody.  It is a heinous crime and something needs to be done about it.  I would say - and again, it is not a cheap political point - more than one page deserves to be in a document that is about women and girls.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Let me respond to that speech and give you some examples of the excellent work we are doing in this area.  Operation Limelight, not mentioned by the Assembly Member, is a multiagency safeguarding operation we are doing with the United Kingdom Border [Force] (UKBF), delivered extensively at Heathrow Airport before and after the three main school holidays.  It has been adopted at airports across the country and I wrote to heads of schools before the last summer holidays.


The London Honour-Based Abuse (HBA) Working Group has been established, which brings together strategic leads and key stakeholders in London for both FGM and forced marriage and is providing effective governance and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) response to HBA.


We are working extensively with London Councils, local authority children’s social care, the CPS, UKBF, NHS England and others to deliver multiagency events and training, aimed at improving information and sharing effective safeguarding, particularly through the promotion of FGM protection orders, not mentioned by the Assembly Member.  We have promotion of the effective police response to FGM through proactive engagement with the media, also not mentioned by the Assembly Member.  We should not talk about - because it is sub judice - the case going through the courts now, which could be the first successful prosecution.


I am disappointed that the Assembly Member, for the sake of making a cheap point, is using FGM to do so.  I am confident that we have a policy in place and we are now investing monies in relation to the policy, including - which is really important - education and community engagement.  I am disappointed that the Assembly Member does not think it is important to have education or community engagement.