The festive season has brought light for most through the winter darkness, but increased alcohol consumption and financial pressure can make it a terrifying time for women experiencing violence.
Last year ended with news that a young teenage girl was killed in Afghanistan by relatives who had been refused her hand in marriage because her father thought she was too young. Already this year, a fatal gang-rape on a bus hired by a group of revellers in India has also dominated news.
With the recent news that domestic abuse is on the rise in Gwent, this topic is very timely. Every year in Wales, 29 women will seek help to deal with forced marriage, 30 people will experience honour-based violence and 1904 women will access refuges to escape domestic violence. In 2011, the Forced Marriage Unit received 1468 calls regarding potential/suspected forced marriage.
In 2010, the Welsh Labour Government introduced the Right to Be Safe strategy with the support of the Violence Against Women Action Group which aimed to tackle all forms of violence against women. However, the VAWAG has reported that problems still exist in the provision of counselling for violence against Black and Minority Ethnic women.
The Welsh Labour Government has not attended any key meetings with the Home Office to discuss a new pilot project to tackle these issues which have been attended by Women's Organisations instead. The delivery of the strategy has been piecemeal and no steps have been taken to ensure that women seeking refuge from violence are given help in rebuilding lives.
I hope that the forthcoming Ending violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse (Wales) Bill will be more successful than this strategy and that the Labour Government will correct these issues.
I would also like to thank you for your contributions in what has truly been a Golden Year. I hope that you have all enjoyed the recent festivities regardless of religious orientation and hope that the warmth and happiness you have felt is carried with you well into the Year. Yes it has been a tough year for everyone.
However, the most defining moments of 2012 have been the Golden Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games which have reminded us that no time is too tough and no mountain too high. We were reminded of the power of togetherness, perseverance and positivity. In our individual efforts to face-up to the realities of this recession let us remember to pass these values onto others.
Happy New Year. Let's make 2013 a good one.
For further information on the VAWAG, go to www.walesvawgroup.com or for further information on helplines please contact my office on 01633 220022.