What's Happening With The UK's Domestic Abuse Bill?

Hailed as a life-changing piece of legislation for victims, the Domestic Abuse bill will see a revision that rules out "rough sex" as a defence.

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Three years in the making, the UK's Domestic Abuse Bill is finally going through parliament. Dropped due to the 2019 general election and Brexit, its return has been hailed as a life-changing for victims and their families. Revisions have been made in the meantime, including an amendment that rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence.

What Is The Domestic Abuse Bill?

First published in 2019 by Theresa May’s government, a draft of the bill laid out “123 commitments, both legislative and non-legislative,” the government writes. These were designed to:

  • Raise awareness and understanding of domestic abuse, and the impact it causes on victims and their families
  • Improve the effectiveness of the justice system to prioritise victim safety and provide an effective response to perpetrators
  • Strengthen the support given to victims of abuse by statutory agencies across all local areas and sectors, in addition to placing a duty on councils to provide shelter for victims.

As the BBC writes, this bill will also “introduce the first legal government definition of domestic abuse,” which will include “economic abuse and coercive or controlling non-physical behaviour.”

Where Does The Bill Currently Stand?

The bill brings a lot of positive change to the table, but there are still parts of the legislation that have received criticism from campaigners. Most notably, migrant women face a severe lack of support in the legislation’s current form.

As the BBC writes, “some immigrants with an insecure status cannot access public funds or housing and refuge support,” meaning that major parts of the bill will be inaccessible to them. “The decision to leave migrant women out of this bill sends the message that their lives are not valued, that they are disposable, they are second-class people, they are invisible,” Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters told the Guardian.

She added: “With this bill, the government isn’t just invisibilizing abused migrant women, it’s worse than that. It knows they exist but it is deliberately choosing to ignore their needs.”

What Happens Next?

Due to the general election last December, the passage of the bill was delayed considerably. But as of now the bill will reach its final stage in parliament on June 13 per the Guardian, where MPs will be able to “propose and vote on new amendments”, per Stylist. This leaves a week for any further considerable changes to be made, including additional support for migrant women.

But even after the bill goes through this stage, which “could take some time” as Stylist notes, there’s the possibility that the legislation will undergo two additional reviews. Until then, an official date for when the Domestic Abuse bill will be passed remains unknown.