Jeremy Corbyn will throw his support behind an SNP private member’s bill that aims to end violence against women, BuzzFeed News can reveal.
The bill, proposed by Eilidh Whiteford MP and due to be debated in the Commons for the first time on Friday, seeks to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe framework on tackling violence against women.
At the launch of her bill last Thursday, Whiteford explained why ratifying the convention was an important step.
“Mention the Istanbul Convention and you will quite often be met with blank stares,” she said. “The shorthand is fairly opaque; however, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence – to give the treaty its full and proper title – is a groundbreaking international legal instrument.
“It is the most comprehensive and far reaching framework that exists to tackle violence against women in its many forms and manifestations, and critically, it provides the legal apparatus to hold governments accountable for their progress, and is a powerful vehicle for improving policy, practices, and services on an ongoing basis.”
The convention was signed by the UK in June 2012 but has yet to be ratified. Whiteford’s bill aims to change that, and to force the government to provide a schedule and regular updates on how its tackling violence.
The bill has cross-party support, and is backed by MPs including Labour’s Jess Phillips and Maria Miller from the Conservatives.
Corbyn, however, drew criticisms from campaigners on Saturday for saying in a speech that “a Labour government will ratify the Istanbul Convention and put it into effect”, without mentioning the SNP bill.
Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality party (WE), accused the Labour leader of “using the needs of survivors to leverage future votes”, and Whiteford called on him to “put the lives of women before party politics”.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News on Monday, a spokesperson for Corbyn’s office said: “The Istanbul Convention has been welcomed by women’s organisations, such as Women’s Aid, because it makes the rights of women suffering abuse a government priority, with the objective of eradicating abuse against women.
“That is why Labour MPs are mobilising for Friday’s vote and why Jeremy will be voting for this bill and pushing the government to finally ratify the Convention.”
Shadow women and equalities minister Sarah Champion also told BuzzFeed News that she would do “everything I can” to ensure the bill goes through.
Corbyn’s office refused to comment on whether the vote on the bill will be whipped, but Labour sources have said there will not be a three-line whip.
Whiteford told BuzzFeed News she was disappointed by Labour’s decision, as she needs 100 MPs to be in the chamber on Friday, and currently only has “around 90”.
“While the SNP whip has ensured that our group will be there at full strength on Friday, we need the support of Labour MPs to guarantee we have enough people present to push for a closure motion should the government attempt to block it,” she said.
WE’s Sophie Walker went further. “It is not the time to play party politics, it’s time to get it done,” she said. “We know that in the four years since the government signed the convention, 582 women in the United Kingdom have lost their lives to male violence. We need to stop treating female equality as a political football.”
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