Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, today challenged Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to use his influence in the UK Government to protect vulnerable women in Northern Ireland and scrap the two child policy and rape clause.
The campaigning MP asked the Northern Ireland Secretary to highlight the impact that Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 has on referrals under the rape clause, as it results in automatic disclosure of rape allegations directly to the police. Concerns have been raised by women’s organisations, including the Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation, who Ms Thewliss met with in September following her attendance at an anti-rape clause rally in Belfast.
Third party professionals, such as doctors, midwives, social workers and support workers, can face a prison sentence of up to 10 years if they fail to disclose that a woman has been raped when completing the rape clause form – even if doing so means that women are placed in further danger of violence and sexual assault from their abusive partners.
Speaking after Northern Ireland Questions, Alison Thewliss MP said:
“I have been pursuing the UK Government on this abhorrent policy for over two years now, and it’s evident that the rape clause’s sickening impact on women in Northern Ireland is becoming clearer by the day. In addition to the repugnant position that vulnerable women are being placed in by having to disclose one of the worst experiences of their lives to make a claim for a benefit, they, and the third party professionals that support them, could face criminalisation under existing law in Northern Ireland.
“The Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation is the latest in a long line of women’s aid organisations, charities and trades unions to join the campaign against the two child policy and rape clause. The stakes are so high for thousands of doctors, nurses, women’s aid workers and support workers who face potential criminalisation under the rape clause.
“The Northern Ireland Secretary must now stand up for vulnerable women in Northern Ireland and ask his colleagues in the DWP to scrap the pernicious, mediaeval and unworkable two child policy and rape clause once and for all.”