Executive Ministers have issued a call for views on two new strategies, aimed at tackling domestic and sexual abuse, and violence against women and girls.
The First Minister, deputy First Minister, Justice Minister and Health Minister stressed the Executive's commitment to tackling these critical issues and creating a society where everyone is safe and protected from all forms of violence and abuse.
Paul Givan, Michelle O'Neill, Naomi Long and Robin Swann have urged everyone, including victims and survivors, to make their voices heard.
The Equally Safe Strategy: A Strategy to Tackle Violence Against Women and Girls, from the Executive Office, is being designed to address societal attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.
The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy, from the Departments of Health and Justice, seeks to adopt an inclusive approach and apply to all victims, regardless of gender or gender identity.
Meeting with key statutory and voluntary sector stakeholders, the four Ministers announced a wide ranging engagement on the two new strategies, which will run through to 7 March 2022.
Speaking on the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, First Minister Paul Givan said:
"Violence and the fear of violence in all its forms has long-lasting, life-changing impacts on the most personal aspects of the lives of women and girls. It limits their life-chances and causes misery to individuals and their families. This, in turn, reverberates out into the workplace and wider community.
"We want a society in which all are equally safe; where everyone is respected and can reach their full potential. Addressing this issue will take a combined effort - that involves government at every level, statutory bodies and grassroots organisations, but also individuals - we all have a part to play.
"As an Executive, we are committed to tackling all forms of violence, abuse and unwanted behaviour against women and girls. It has no place in our society. I would encourage as many people as possible to reach out and engage in the development of these strategies."
The deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said:
"This is a priority issue for me, and the Executive is united in its determination to end the abhorrent violence and abuse against women and girls in our society. From the most heart-breaking stories to the unwanted behaviour that makes many women uncomfortable and anxious every day, we know the impact that violence against women and girls has every day. It has no place in our society and it must stop.
"Much good work is already being done but the time has come for a step change in how these issues are addressed. Our approach is ambitious and focused on working collaboratively. We want you to help us to look at root causes, track the progression from damaging attitudes towards abusive behaviours and understand how to intervene at the earliest possible stages. That is why we asking for views from right across our community. It is crucial to hear all voices, including those of victims and survivors. Please help us to create a society where every woman and girl feels safe."
Outlining plans in relation to the new cross Executive Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy, Justice Minister Naomi Long said:
"We are committed to working with our Executive colleagues to challenge and address the societal attitudes and behaviours that contribute towards domestic and sexual abuse in our society. Tackling domestic and sexual abuse is, and will continue to be, a key priority for us. Anyone can be a victim, just as anyone can be an abuser.
"Tackling this issue warrants a dedicated approach, an identifiable strategy, with specific commitments. While we have already taken a number of important steps to address domestic and sexual abuse, including new legislation to make domestic abuse an offence, there is more to do".
Health Minister Robin Swann concluded by saying:
"It is particularly important that we get the views of as wide a range of society as possible. We want to hear from our statutory and voluntary sector partners who have much expertise, experience and knowledge to bring as well as those who have been affected by domestic and sexual abuse, those with lived experience.
"By responding to this call for views, you will help us to consider the challenges and opportunities as we plan ahead to develop this new Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy for Northern Ireland, to raise awareness, support victims and address offending behaviour. We very much look forward to hearing your views."
The call for views paper, covering both strategies, is available here: https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/doj/call-for-views-dsa-strategy-vawg-strategy-response.