BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show


Last Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2007, 11:02 GMT
Violence against women
On Sunday 25 November Andrew Marr interviewed Trevor Phillips, Head of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Trevor Phillips. photo courtesy Jeff Overs BBC
Trevor Phillips, Head of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights


TREVOR PHILLIPS: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Thanks for coming in. The Commission that you now head used to be the Opportunities Commission, Equality Commission, all sorts of commissions looking at different issues, all been brought together in one organisation.

TREVOR PHILLIPS: I think the way to think of us now Andrew is as the Commission for Fairness. We deal with the discrimination on all grounds - gender, race, sexual orientation, religion and belief, age now and disability as well as promoting human right. Our job is simply essentially to try as best we can to turn us into a society where people are treated fairly.


TREVOR PHILLIPS: And rather than just being an organisation which advocates for a single interest, I guess we're here for everybody's interest.

ANDREW MARR: Right. So why have you singled out violence against women as the subject of one of your first reports?

TREVOR PHILLIPS: Well I think the answer to that is simply because the story is so horrendous. When our report is released this week, which we've done jointly with an alliance of women's organisations called End Violence Against Women, what you will see is one in ten women in this country suffer from some form of violence each year. That's three million women. One and a half million of those women face something very serious.

And we're talking about assault, rape, honour killings, female genital mutilation of women and girls. This is a major thing that people don't talk about. In a sense we're a society that's created or declared, or has an undeclared war on women. And that has to stop.

ANDREW MARR: To what extent is this about a sort of perverse political correctness, not wanting to get involved in things like forced marriages and so on, regarding that as somebody's culture which shouldn't be touched?

TREVOR PHILLIPS: Well I think that some people would say you know, as they always said about domestic violence, the police will turn up and say oh this is, this is something that's happened ... between a man and a woman behind closed doors. But something first of all at this scale, we know that this is cultural. It's not just the odd thing that's happening here.

Also the truth of the matter is two women each week die at the hands of somebody that they know. This is something that we cannot possibly ignore as a society. This is endemic to us. So when I say that this is an undeclared war against women I really mean it. We have to intervene.

ANDREW MARR: The Conservative Leader David Cameron last week talked about rape and the problems of rape. He didn't say this, but there is a general bubble going around about the idea of separating so called date rape from, quotes, more serious rape.

That one of the problems about the very, very low numbers of convictions for rape is that juries look at two young people, both of them been very drunk and all the rest of it and are reluctant to convict. How do you react to the idea of separating out different forms of rape?

TREVOR PHILLIPS: I think this is something that people should really not even begin to consider. A woman who is violated against her consent or without her active consent is rape. It doesn't matter the, what the circumstances are. It doesn't matter whether she's had a drink or the perpetrator's had a drink. It is rape. It is assault.

And all of these kinds of qualifications and you know it, it's because - this just provides excuses for people who do a serious crime. So frankly I, you know I have no, I don't want to sort of attack David Cameron over it. But forget it. Rape is rape. No is no. Let's just stick to the basics.

ANDREW MARR: What would you like the government to do about the wider issue of violence against women at the moment?

TREVOR PHILLIPS: Well I think that the most important thing - and this will be clearer when we release the details of the survey - is to ensure that every woman, everywhere in this country, has the same level of service, that there is somebody to call, that there is proper follow up, that the person who has been the victim of an attack has somebody who will, a sense, look after them afterwards.

Because one thing that's very important here is one and a half million crimes of this kind every year, these are traumatic. There is, there is an idea that actually ..

ANDREW MARR: It doesn't matter so much.

TREVOR PHILLIPS: ...It doesn't matter so much. She'll get over it and all the rest of it. This stays with people for the whole of their lives.

ANDREW MARR: Let me ask you about something else actually in today's papers which is the Oxford Union's decision to invite the historian who doesn't accept that the Holocaust happened, David Irvin to come and talk to them. How do you react to that?

TREVOR PHILLIPS: I think it is an absolute disgrace. As a former President of the National Union of Students, I'm ashamed that this has happened. This is not a question about freedom of speech. This is a juvenile provocation.

And they're using freedom of speech. Now what I would say to students at Oxford, look you're supposed to be brilliant. Put your brains back in your head. People fought and died for freedom of expression, they, and freedom of speech. They didn't fight and die for it so it could be used as a sort of silly parlour game.

Nobody needs to invite these people to for God's sake, deny the Holocaust. This is just a piece of silly pranksterism and the issues are too serious to be left to that. So what I'd say to, I'd first of all say to the Oxford Union, think again. You still have a few days. And for students, if this goes ahead, what I really hope that Oxford students will do is turn their backs on this really rather shabby ex... exhibition.

ANDREW MARR: Well that's clear enough. Trevor Phillips thank you very much indeed for coming in.


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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