Amnesty opens domestic front

Amnesty UK will ask its supporters to tackle issues on their own doorstep for the first time as part of a global campaign to eliminate violence against women, set to launch in March.

Amnesty UK will ask its supporters to lobby the Government for the creation of a national strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women, including rape and violence stemming from forced marriages.

It will also encourage the formation of community groups of Amnesty supporters to raise awareness of violence against women in their local areas, and seek to build relationships with local charities and bodies working with abused and battered women.

The global Stop Violence Against Women programme will be run across 60 countries. It has the broad aim of abolishing any laws that discriminate or fail to protect women, while campaigning for the formation of new laws to protect women from violence and abuse.

The programme signals a new direction for Amnesty International, which is best known for campaigns focusing on countries accused of human rights abuses or on individual cases of human rights violations.

"This campaign is going to be a bit of a challenge as a lot of our supporters are very focused on international issues and aren't used to being asked to address issues close to home," said Bruce Wylie, head of the newly created activism team at Amnesty UK.

"Through working on more specific issues such as violence in the home, we're hoping to show that there is much to be done here as well as overseas," he said.

Stop Violence Against Women also indicates a new drive by Amnesty International to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into its remit. In the opening paragraph of its report written to launch the campaign, the organisation states that violence against women is "the greatest human-rights scandal of our time".

"Violence affects one in three women across the globe and our decision to launch a campaign focusing on this issue reflects our belief that human rights are still gender-blind, and on the whole, women are still in danger for just being women," said Jennifer Campbell, campaign manager for Stop Violence Against Women.

Violence against women is one of 10 themes Amnesty International will campaign on over the next 10 years in an effort to attract a broader range of supporters.

Other themes include the death penalty, corporate social responsibility and further development of the Control Arms Campaign that it launched with Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms last year.

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