With all of the threats to women's rights in the United States, it can be easy to overlook the questionable legislation passed overseas. But a welfare law that just went into effect in the United Kingdom is a reminder that misguided legislation is found everywhere across the globe. So what is the U.K. "Rape Clause"?
In the U.K., women on welfare can claim only their first two children as dependents for a tax credit. Where the "Rape Clause" comes in is that it allows for a child not conceived with consent to be exempted from the two-child tax credit rule. If a child was the product of rape, a rape victim has to fill out an eight-page form asking personal questions and provide any documentation she has to prove the legitimacy of her rape.
A third party (such as a health care provider, specialist support worker, or social worker) must provide testimony as well. Then an evaluator will decide if her claim is legitimate and if she should get the tax credit.
Basically, the U.K. government is saying that women who who are on welfare should have no more than two children, but are also trying to say they're being nice and fair about it by allowing a woman who has been raped and had the child to be an exception by putting her through various hoops and having someone judge the legitimacy of her rape claim.
The form from the Department of Work and Pensions, which is officially called the "Support for a child conceived without your consent, including rape or while you were in a coercive or controlling relationship form," is also known as NCC1 4/17. On it, women are required to provide the name of the child who was conceived by rape and to verify that the father of the child is not living with them.
Possibly the most amazing part of all of this is that the law was passed without a vote or debate in parliament. Instead, it was attached to an amendment of an existing act.
The two-child tax credit itself is a harmful rule that will affect many families. Not being able to use a credit for some children could cost larger families £2,780 ($3,500) per year. It also targets women, and the most vulnerable ones at that. An estimated 200,000 children could become at risk of falling into poverty because of the law.
Overall, this is a harmful law for women and families already struggling. The psychological effects of experiencing a rape are terrible enough without women having to fill out paperwork to prove her rape just to get a tax credit. Women are already hesitant to report their rape in many cases for fear that they won't be believed. Why the U.K. government thinks that women who have actually suffered rape will be willing to go through the process of filling out the appropriate paperwork and allowing it to be evaluated is unknown.