Wales politics

Women's groups 'held hostage' over violence bill

Woman Image copyright PA
Image caption The bill focuses on women as the most likely victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence

Women's support groups have been "held hostage" by ministers keen to pass a new law against violence without any changes, Plaid Cymru has claimed.

The Violence Against Women Bill was passed without objections after opposition parties accepted measures on anti-bullying guidance in schools.

Plaid AM Simon Thomas claimed groups which asked AMs to amend the bill later backed down under government pressure.

The Welsh government has been asked to comment on the claims.

'Volte face'

Mr Thomas was critical of the Wales Violence Against Women action group, a coalition of charities including Welsh Women's Aid and the NSPCC.

He said: "They were coming to opposition groups, saying 'put down these amendments and please work in this way', and then did a volte face when they were reminded, I think by the Welsh government, about where their priorities should lie.

"I think they were held hostage. This has been a deeply despondent experience for me as an assembly member."

During the Senedd debate on Tuesday, Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews told AMs that lobbying on the issue had been "passionate", but he did not regard any representations as "bullying".

"We need to focus on the issues at stake - domestic abuse, sexual violence, violence against women and other forms of gender-based violence. That is what this bill is about."

A spokeswoman for Wales Violence Against Women said: "We are proud to have run a positive campaign and that all AMs have listened to what we had to say, and now our focus will be on making sure the act helps reduce violence against women in Wales".

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