On Thursday 6th April, the UK Government’s controversial rape clause policy was introduced to widespread condemnation. The new benefits changes limit the child element of both Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to a maximum of two children, whilst providing for exceptions such as unforeseeable multiple births, or the case of a child being conceived as a result of rape.
The prospect of women having to prove to government officials that they have been raped in order to gain access to benefits has been strongly denounced since it was first proposed, with the First Minister describing it as ‘disgusting’, and SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, leading a campaign to scrap the so-called ‘rape clause’.
Despite this ongoing opposition from charities, Scottish MPs, and the Scottish Government, the UK Government has chosen to press ahead with the policy, provoking renewed efforts to oppose it.
Scotland’s women’s charities, such as Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland, have stated that they will refuse to comply with the rape clause policy by not acting as a third party. This is significant as the new policy requires ‘third parties’ to support a woman’s claim to have been raped.
And on the day that the policy came into force, the Scottish Government announced that the two child cap would not be implemented in Scotland’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
In London, Women’s Aid campaigners, welfare support groups, faith leaders, trade unionists and Alison Thewliss MP unveiled a hard hitting poster campaign outside Westminster to coincide with the policy’s introduction.
Local MSP Ruth Maguire, has also restated her opposition to the rape clause, condemning it as ‘immoral’ and disgraceful’.
Commenting, Ruth said:
‘Forcing women who have already suffered to either relive trauma or lose out of benefits is an immoral and disgraceful policy from a callous Tory Government.
It is deplorable that the UK Government has pressed ahead with this policy despite widespread opposition and evidence from women’s charities about how damaging it will be.
I am proud that the Scottish Government has chosen to mitigate these cruel policies where it can, by not implementing the two child cap in our Council Tax Reduction Scheme. In too many other areas, however, we are at the mercy of decisions taken by a Tory Government in London that Scotland did not vote for and which does not represent us.
On the day that this disgraceful policy is introduced, I restate my support for the efforts of my colleague, Alison Thewliss, and women’s charities across the UK and Scotland as they fight against the immoral rape clause.’