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Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls

Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls

Protecting survivors through legislation and practice

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread and damaging problems in our world today. An interconnected programme of research by Professor Ravi Thiara aimed to combine different strands of anti-VAWG research to combat the issue in the UK and abroad. Researchers gathered the experiences of women from across the globe and testimony from racially minoritised and disabled groups in the UK. These testimonies formed a ground-breaking body of research which has gone on to change policies and laws.

The challenge

Research on VAWG is often patchy and misses important viewpoints, particularly those of disabled women whose experiences have never been centred in a national study. Official policy has often focused on male rights, instead of the safety of women and children and where money has changed hands as part of marriage, matters become still more complicated. The exclusion and isolation faced by rural communities in Africa and racially minoritised groups in the UK makes women more vulnerable to violence and more likely to have their experiences excluded from the national narrative about VAWG.

Our approach

Professor Thiara with her colleagues drew on data and experiences from a wide range of groups and organisations, including:

  • Women in rural Uganda
  • Family court professionals in the UK
  • NGOs (including Imkaan, MIFUMI Uganda, Women’s Aid and the NSPCC)
  • Wide range of survivors – women and children
  • Wide range of professional groups

Researchers: worked directly with survivors to understand the damage done to relationships with their children by abusive men, which resulted in a set of shareable resources; highlighted gaps in law and policy in the UK and abroad, instigating tangible change in policy and practice.

Our impact

The research programme has had a broad, positive impact in and outside of the UK. Research on ‘bride price’ in Eastern Uganda showed that men used the payment to justify the commoditisation of women. To tackle this mindset, the research was used to launch an information campaign which empowered women to report more cases and seek support. In addition, the Ugandan Supreme Court ruled that refunds of ‘bride price’ were illegal, freeing many women from abusive marriages. In the UK, the research informed lobbying by Women’s Aid and MPs, which led to the President of the Family Division announcing new rules to protect survivors and their children, and also fed into the Domestic Abuse Bill of 2019.

Insight into disabled survivors of VAWG has gone on to inform new guidance for health and other services. Research identified domestic abuse as an attack on the mother-child relationship and findings formed the basis of two workbooks for professionals, which are sold internationally. This research also inspired the development of an NSPCC programme to help survivors and their children to recover together.

Read the Women's Aid report "Safe Not Sorry" 

Discover Public Health England's investigation into disability and domestic abuse 

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