On Thursday 15th September, Ruth Maguire MSP took part in a debate on the recent announcement by the First Minister that the Scottish Government will introduce legislation to create a specific criminal offence of domestic abuse.
 
In a debate characterised by a strong sense of cross-party consensus, Ruth began by commending the commitment of both the Scottish Government and the wider Parliament to improving how the justice system responds to violence against women. The SNP MSP for Cunninghame South highlighted the importance of the new law – which will criminalise psychological abuse, control and coercion – in creating clarity for survivors and potential victims, and improving the ability of the police and justice system to intervene.
 
‘Child contact arrangement orders must put the best interests of the child or children first’
 
Ruth also used her speech to raise concerns about issues such as court-mandated contact that remain to be addressed within the legal system, citing a harrowing recent report by Women’s Aid entitled ‘Nineteen Child Homicides’. The report tells the stories of the cases of nineteen children, all intentionally killed by a parent who was also a known perpetrator of domestic abuse. These killings were made possible through unsafe child contact arrangements, over half of which were ordered through the courts. 
 
Ruth quoted the words of Lord Justice Wall, who, in 2006, stated that: ‘it is, in my view, high time that the Family Justice System abandoned any reliance on the proposition that a man can have a history of violence to the mother of his children but, nonetheless, be a good father’.
 
‘Preventing and addressing violence against women demands a fundamental change in societal attitudes. Women can’t do it on their own, if we could, we would have sorted it out by now. We need everyone’
The speech concluded by stressing the need for collective responsibility across society to tackle the wider issue of gender inequality, which underlies all forms of violence against women. Emphasising that this requires a fundamental change in attitudes, Ruth pointed members to the fact that, until just a few decades ago, it was still accepted, as it had been for centuries before, that a man had the right to rape his wife, and urged them to take courage and heart from how much things can change. 
You can watch Ruth’s speech in full here.