The Conservative MP Philip Davies has faced down a torrent of abuse from colleagues, taking a principled stance against a discriminatory bill which recognises only female victims of domestic violence.
On Friday the House of Commons met to ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence into British law.
But whereas many Members were keen to put on record their opposition to violence against women, it was left to the member for Shipley to stand as the lone voice of reason pointing out that men are also victims of violence and abuse, and that women can also be perpetrators.
Davis cited ONS figures which show that one in three victims of domestic violence are men – for the year ending March 2016 there were 1.2 million female victims and 651,000 male. The member of parliament pointed out that whereas there are around 7,000 refuge spaces available for women, there are a mere 82 in the country for use by men, and of those, just 24 are reserved exclusively for men.
On average, men are only half as likely to report this abuse as women.
“Only 10 percent of male victims will tell the police (26 percent women), only 23 percent will tell a person in an official position (43 percent women) and only 11 percent (23 percent women) will tell a health professional,” Davies said.
In the case of psychological abuse there is markedly little difference between the sexes. Davies cited figures from the Mankind Initiative, which found: “Of those that suffered partner abuse in 2014/15, a higher proportion of men suffered from force (37 percent) than women (29 percent). For emotional and psychological abuse the proportions were 61 percent and 63 percent respectively.”
Davis added: “It is no good people shaking their heads; these are the facts—the official statistics—although they might be inconvenient. I am not surprised that Opposition Members have not heard about it; we never hear any of this in this place because we are so blinkered in only wanting to look one dimensionally at all these issues. I am not surprised that it has come as a shock to Opposition Members.
Colleagues on both sides of the house reacted furiously, with many accusing him of speaking for over an hour in an attempt to filibuster the bill. Members would not have been able to vote on it if the session had run past 2.30pm
But Davis countered, saying: “there are certain things I say that nobody else can be trusted to say.”
Against accusations of sexism for not supporting the bill, Davies turned the tables with charges of hypocrisy.
“I can’t really believe this needs saying, to be honest, but I think it’s so discriminatory and sexist to say that we should only be focusing on violence against women,” he said.
“If this was the other way round, there would be an absolute outcry from people in this House – and rightly so. I do not take the view that violence against women and girls is somehow worse than violence against men and boys.”
And to those who accused him of condoning violence against women by failing to support the bill, he delivered a withering reposte: “It basically comes with a worthy sentiment – who can possibly be against trying to stop violence against women? Nobody,” he said.
“I’m not aware of anybody who wants to argue that people should be violent towards women and girls, of course not.
“Because the title of the Bill has about ‘combating violence against women’ then it presumes as long as you support that premise you must support this particular Bill, and therefore if you oppose this Bill it means you must be in favour, as it follows, of violence against women and children.
“Now that’s the kind of level of debate I’d expect from the morons on Twitter.
“But I still live in hope that we might have better quality debate than that in this House, although my experience is it doesn’t actually get much better normally.”
The bill was passed by 135 votes in favour to two against. The dissenting votes were cast by Davies and fellow Conservative David Nuttall.