AN MP dedicated a landmark Bill to a rape survivor yesterday, as the UK took a “huge and historic step” towards eradicating violence against women and girls.

Eilidh Whiteford’s Private Member’s Bill requires the UK Government to follow the lead of around 20 other countries and ratify the landmark Istanbul Convention, which requires the state to prevent gender-based violence and prosecute the perpetrators.

Just one MP – Tory Philip Davies – voted against passing the Bill with amendments.

He staged a 90-minute filibuster in a bid to defeat the proposals, claiming the convention is “discriminatory” and that violent crimes against women have risen since ratification in other countries.

However, cheers and applause broke out as the Bill cleared the Commons and Whiteford, who ded-icated it to constituent Sarah Scott, dismissed Davies as a “pantomime villain” and an “embarrassment”.

The UK signed up to the convention – which covers stalking, harassment, sexual crimes, forced marriage and abuse by partners – in 2012 but claimed legal issues meant ratification was too difficult. Now the Bill will proceed to its next stage in the Lords on its way to becoming law.

Following the vote, Whiteford, the SNP MP Banff and Buchan, said: “This is a huge and historic step forward in efforts to tackle violence against women and has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of women right across the country.

“Women’s equality organisations and activists have been campaigning for many years now for the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention. Today’s vote is a cause for celebration and a testament to their sustained efforts.”

She went on: “Sexual violence and domestic abuse are neither natural nor inevitable. We can prevent it, we can challenge it and we can hold perpetrators to account.

“We have travelled some distance in this struggle but we still have such a long way still to go and we need to recognise that ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a milestone on the journey to equality and justice for women, not an end point.”

Whiteford said the issue “is about real people and real lives”. She said the experience of Sarah Scott, who waived anonymity to speak out after she was raped in Aberdeen when she was 19, moved her “beyond measure”.

Scott suffered post- traumatic stress disorder after the violent attack and the culprit, Adrian Ruddock, was given parole halfway through his eight-year sentence. She now campaigns for change.

Addressing the House, Whiteford said: “I can only begin to imagine the inner strength and bravery it took for her to speak out.

“Sarah, this Bill is for you and for every person who knows at first hand the brutal, life-shattering reality of sexual violence and has had the courage to claim justice and fight for it.

“Thank you for helping us all be a bit braver and stronger in the fight for equality and human rights, and more determined than ever to end this abuse, once and for all.”

Whiteford said the Government’s attitude towards ratification had been “yeah well, whenever, maybe never”.

She also offered condolences to the family of author Helen Bailey, whose husband was found guilty of her murder earlier this week, calling the act “a truly horrific crime”.

Yesterday’s vote followed an appeal by actor and campaigner Emma Watson to MPs to take part.

Organisations including Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and the National Union of Students also backed the move.

Outlining his opposition, Davies said: “It’s harsher sentencing of perpetrators that will make a big difference.

“The idea that having this group of experts pontificating about how well or badly something has been implemented will make any material difference to the levels of violence in the UK is for the birds.”


Lone Tory's blocking attempt 'wilful sabotage', say his constituents

THE slogan on his website says “your interests, not self-interest”.

But constituents of Shipley knew what to expect from their MP Philip Davies as the third reading of the Istanbul Convention Bill approached, saying: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Davies, who once talked out a bill to provide first aid training to school children, took up an hour and a half of parliamentary time yesterday as he dismissed efforts to tackle gender-based violence.

The Tory backbencher said the move discriminated against men and failed to bring about improvements in other countries, but also admitted he had no evidence for some of his arguments.

He also tabled more than 50 amendments with fellow Tories David Nuttall and Christopher Chope, but these were later withdrawn.

Before the session, more than 130 of his constituents wrote to other MPs urging them not to allow him to “make a shambles of the parliamentary process”.

Writing under the name Feminist Zealots – a term Davies used to describe those fighting for equality – they said: “We are constituents of Philip Davies MP appalled by his attempts to obstruct this bill at previous readings.

“In December, he spoke for an hour and derailed the debate by putting forward his own agenda of men’s rights. “We have alerted Philip Davies to the fact that the Istanbul Convention recognises that men can be victims of domestic violence, and also to the disproportionate number of women who suffer domestic abuse, sexual violence and harassment, stalking and coercive behaviour.

“He persists in being dismissive of our concerns, and in his argument that the bill is ‘discriminatory on the grounds of gender’.

“We understand he intends to oppose it at the next reading unless his proposed (and numerous) amendments to make it gender-blind are accepted.

“This is a wilful misunderstanding and sabotage of the Bill – and he cannot do this in our name.”