What is the Rape Clause and why does it Matter?
In the 2015 budget the UK government put forward the idea of a rape clause within their plans to limit Child Tax Credits. This limitation meant that support from the government would stop after two children; the ‘Rape Clause’ decreed that if a child were conceived through rape one would have to fill out a document to prove the circumstances of their child's conception.
On the 6th of April 2017 the ‘Rape Clause’ came into effect. Many campaigners, human rights groups and politicians have condemned the law.
The clause (which has been defended by government, who see it as “fairness”) makes survivors of rape fill out eight pages of forms to be considered for benefits - typically by someone who isn’t trained in dealing with rape crimes.
In April, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale read a letter to the Scottish Parliament from a woman who had become pregnant through rape. The letter read: "I claimed tax credits from birth to eleven months old; the hand-up I needed when I was at my most vulnerable to allow me to re-stabilise my family."
"Tax credits kept our heads above water, a buffer between us and the food bank, for that I am eternally grateful. There is no way I could complete that awful form of shame, no matter what the consequences. Looking back, that really could have been the thing that tipped me completely over the edge; the difference between surviving to tell the tale and not."
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have also criticised the clause claiming it could violate human rights laws.
In a letter to the employment minister they said: “We consider that there has been a failure to fully consider the impact of the implementation of this exemption, including the potentially traumatic process for having eligibility assessed and the risk of re-traumatisation upon survivors of rape.”
According to The Independent, British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn stated, “Kezia Dugdale’s powerful speech in the Scottish parliament demonstrated the heart breaking reality of the rape clause.” Corbyn has promised that he will scrap the ‘Rape Clause’ if he gets voted into power in the General election on the 8th June.
The publication also reported on Theresa May defending the ‘Rape Clause’ at the Prime Minister’s Questions in April. After Chris Stephens from the SNP challenged May on the topic she responded: “This is an incredibly sensitive issue. We looked at it very carefully; we consulted very carefully on it. And we have put in place a series of sensitive measures when such cases arise."
“We believe that people who are in work have to make the same decisions as those people who are out of work, so that people on benefits have to decide whether they can afford more children, jus as people in work have to decide."
The policy directly affects victims, who could find the ordeal to be traumatising and is widely off-putting. Yet the clause was passed into law without a debate or a vote.
Speaking on the matter - Stay Brave UK's Chief Executive, Alexander Morgan, said: "It's genuinely disconcerting that the government would deliberately make it harder for survivors of rape to get the help they need. Rape survivors have been through enough without making more, potentially traumatising, hoops for them to jump through.
"Any policy involving survivors of rape to disclose details of their ordeal should be written from the survivors perspective as paramount. This clause is a disgrace and should have no place in UK law."
This article was written by Darren Mew for Stay Brave UK. Darren is a writer based in the United Kingdom. You can follow Darren over on Twitter.