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Home Affairs Select Committee: Alcohol perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes

Following a Select Committee inquiry, the Home Affairs Committee today publishes a report urging the UK Government to widen its forthcoming bill to be a Violence against Women and Girls and Domestic Abuse Bill.

Evidence provided by a range of stakeholders including the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) led the Select Committee to identify persistent problems in the system responding to such violence, including with lack of refuge and advice support for victims. This aligns with evidence that IAS provided which noted the lack of refuge spaces for those with alcohol use problems.

The inquiry is of interest to those involved in working to reduce rates of alcohol harm as, although alcohol cannot be considered a cause of domestic abuse, research has repeatedly suggested that it is a compounding factor – for example, multiple studies suggest that a substantial proportion of perpetrators have been drinking at the time of their assault (estimates range from 25% to 73%).

Further, the committee’s report also cites evidence from IAS discussing the role regressive gender stereotypes within alcohol marketing might play, noting:

'[The Institute of Alcohol Studies]…referred to the influence of alcohol marketing on the attitudes of young people, saying that: Children are regularly subjected to harmful gender stereotypes, perpetuated through alcohol advertising, which promote and normalise the objectification of women, and potentially, domestic violence and sexual assault.'

The committee also noted the call from IAS for population-level action on the price, availability, and marketing of alcohol, rather than to only address alcohol use by offenders, leaving those unknown to the police and services outside any effective intervention.

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt. Hon. Yvette Cooper MP commented:

'Domestic abuse is one of the most dangerous and the most common crimes there is. Millions of people are affected each year, and two women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex. The government is rightly proposing new legislation and a new strategy, but our inquiry found much stronger action is needed across the board.'

Commenting on the report and the upcoming legislation, IAS Chief Executive Katherine Severi said: 'We welcome the recommendation of this report to expand the provision of refuge spaces. However, it is essential that the government recognise what the evidence cited in this report states; that those with alcohol use problems face additional barriers to accessing these spaces and appropriate support. This must be addressed if this highly vulnerable population are not to be left behind.'