Campaigning MP to address rape clause rally in Northern Ireland

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, will be joining campaigners in Northern Ireland today (Thursday 21st September) to protest the introduction of the UK Government’s two child policy and rape clause.

The campaigning MP will join the Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland and Reclaim the Agenda in Belfast to highlight the stigmatisation of vulnerable women by the rape clause and two child policy and to call on all of Northern Ireland’s MPs to join her campaign to scrap the two child policy and rape clause.

Under Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967, it is a crime to fail to report a criminal offence or to provide information which leads to the conviction of a crime. Third party professionals, such as doctors, midwives, social workers and support workers, could potentially 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 ahead of the rally, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Since its introduction in April, the rape clause has caused untold harm and distress across the UK. The cruelty of forcing women to relive the worst ordeal of their life, just in order to make a claim for benefit, shows the morally repugnant depths to which the UK Government has plumbed.

“As if this wasn’t bad enough, women in Northern Ireland face a very specific risk under existing laws, which requires crimes such as rape to be reported to the police by the third party referrer. Women in abusive relationships are therefore placed in an appalling situation where either they are forced into the criminal justice system or they will struggle to afford to pay bills and put food on the table.

“The rape clause also puts professionals in Northern Ireland in an incredibly difficult position, as they face the prospect of their reputations and careers being destroyed if they do not report that a woman has been raped to the police. It’s no coincidence that a growing number of trade unions and women’s aid groups have refused to endorse the third party referral mechanism for claims made under the rape clause, given the risks it presents to their members.

“The rape clause could criminalise incredibly vulnerable women and the professionals who would wish to support them in Northern Ireland. I’ll be asking all of Northern Ireland’s MPs to join me in demanding an end to the two child policy and rape clause and the misery and poverty it has created for families across the UK.”

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