Charities across Scotland refuse to be “third parties” in rape exemptions over welfare family cap
SCOTLAND’s women’s charities have refused on mass to “collude” with the controversial “rape cause” being imposed by the UK Government this week.
As part of Tory benefit changes, the Westminster policy requires women to prove they have been raped before they receive child benefits for a third or subsequent child.
Despite ongoing consultation by charities and Scottish MPs who have dubbed the policy “cruel and inhumane”, the government has chosen to press ahead provoking a rebuke and withdrawal of support from charities across Scotland.
Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA), Engender and Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) have said that the policy will result in women having to relive trauma or face being penalised financially.
“If a woman later goes to police with a rape charge, will failure to apply for the exemption be seen as evidence that she is lying about the rape? What will disclosing that information mean for the child?” Dr Marsha Scott
Sandy Brindley of RCS said: “It should go without saying that government policy should actively protect women who have experienced violence or abuse, rather than risking re-traumatising victims of rape and coercion by forcing them to disclose in order to receive benefits.
“We have severe concerns both about the direct impact of this policy on rape survivors, and the risk of a fundamentally changed relationship between women and those who work to support them should local centre’s participate.
“A choice between potential poverty or being forced to disclose rape is no choice at all, and this is why the rape crisis movement in Scotland is unable to support this policy.”
Following the comments by Scotland’s leading women’s charities, Scotland’s minister for social security Jeane Freeman yesterday (3 April) called the UK Government’s welfare policy a “fundamental violation of human rights” and has written to the UK employment minister Damian Hinds and David Gauke, chief secretary of the Treasury urging them to delay the implementation and heed the advice from women’s charities at consultation.
“A choice between potential poverty or being forced to disclose rape is no choice at all, and this is why the rape crisis movement in Scotland is unable to support this policy.” Sandy Brindley
The announcement by SWA and RSC follows an extensive conflict between experts on sexual violence and welfare and the UK Government, with groups warning about the dangerous and “immoral” effects of forcing a “burden of proof” for women who have been raped. Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow North, has run a long campaign to try and convince the government to make a U-turn. She has also advocated a more gender conscious welfare system, something being considered by the Scottish Government.
The move by Scotland’s charities is significant because of the way in which the UK Government’s new policy requires “third parties” to in effect validate if a woman has been the victim of rape. This has been fully rejected by bodies such as SWA and RSC who feel that taking part in a process which requires “humiliating” “proof of non-consensual exception” would be “collusion in cruelty.”
Dr Marsha Scott of SWA added: “We’ve made no secret of our views on this policy; forcing a woman to disclose that her child was born of rape or coercion in any circumstance is ethically unjustifiable.
“The numerous unanswered questions about how this disclosure might be understood and used by other actors in the benefits and criminal justice system are really worrying. If a woman later goes to police with a rape charge, will failure to apply for the exemption be seen as evidence that she is lying about the rape? What will disclosing that information mean for the child?”
“In addition to being a clear breach of women’s rights, the clause which allows an exemption for children as a result of rape is unworkable.” Emma Ritch
The Scottish Tories were not available for comment at the time of publication on their parent party’s policy, however, a department for work and pensions spokesman told CommonSpace: “We have ensured the right exemptions are in place from the point of the consultation. We have always been clear that these changes to the welfare system will be delivered with priority given to the most compassion and individual cases.”
Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender Scotland added: “The so-called ‘family cap’ amounts to state intervention in women’s reproductive rights; limiting child tax credit or the child element of Universal Credit to two children will impoverish women already hit by ‘welfare reform’.
“In addition to being a clear breach of women’s rights, the clause which allows an exemption for children as a result of rape is unworkable.
“We applaud the principled decision that Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid have taken to refuse to comply with a policy that is coercive and damaging to women. The ‘family cap’ and ‘rape clause’ must both be scrapped, and we’ll continue working with sister organisations in Scotland and across the UK to resist implementation of this ideological cut to women’s incomes.”
Picture courtesy of SWA
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