The pandemic has increased cases of domestic abuse around the world. In response to the crisis and outdated domestic abuse laws, the UK has passed progressive new domestic abuse legislation to save lives and protect vulnerable individuals.
The new bill signed into law this week has a “statutory definition of domestic abuse,” meaning that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic. This includes financial abuse, in which income is manipulated to control someone or tech abuse such as using phones to track or spy on a partner.
Other specifics include protections for domestic abuse victims in court including banning perpetrators from being able to cross-examine their victims in family courts and requirement for local councils to provide refuge space for victims. Additionally, it now recognizes children as victims in homes where abuse is taking place and removes the “rough sex defense.”
The bill has been praised by women and children’s rights groups but has been criticized by some for lack of provisions surrounding migrant victims like “safe reporting mechanisms” which would protect migrant women who report domestic abuse from immigration status questioning.
In our rapidly changing world, the mechanisms of domestic abuse are changing too. Technology has helped improve domestic abuse resource access but has also expanded the scope of platforms for abuse. This new bill is a step in the right direction to reducing domestic abuse and empowers victims to report and prosecute violence by providing them with more comprehensive legal support.