The seismic vote that took place in Ireland this time last week is a milestone for progress and for the rights of women to live free from control. Rightly it is being celebrated, as is the work of countless activists that brought us to this point, but the fight to liberate women from abuses of power and coercion is not restricted to our bodies, and it is happening right here in Scotland, right now.One reason we at the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre were so invested in the result of the Irish referendum is because the limitation of access to contraception and abortion is a form of gender-based violence in itself. Another is that for women who experience domestic abuse this - frequently coupled with sexual violence - is a tactic often used by perpetrators to control their partner.
Domestic abuse is - and has always been - wrong, but it’s taken a long time for society to play catch up and - despite significant strides - we still have a very long way to go. One such area is our criminal justice system, it’s the very reason why we exist. At things stand, there is a gap that exists between women’s experience of gender-based violence and their access to justice. We strive to fill that gap by providing free legal information, advice and in some cases representation to women affected by gender-based violence.
As part of our work we produce guides to help victim-survivors and those supporting them to navigate our complex criminal justice system. It should go without saying that for victim-survivors to access justice it must be accessible, and yet too often we hear feedback that the system is overwhelming and confusing.
We are working with others to try to fix these systems - and we’ll keep doing this - but we’ve also created guides for women looking to engage with the criminal justice system that give information about what to expect and how to go about realising your rights.
We all have rights, but we don’t always know what they are, or what they mean for us. Knowledge is power; we’ll keep working hard to fix the systems that don’t work for victim-survivors, but for us to truly promote justice for women we know that this means equipping victim-survivors with the tools to navigate the system as is. So that is what we will continue to do.