Dear John... you're wrong

They used to say John Redwood was a Vulcan but what planet does he live on if he thinks his comments about rape are acceptable? The former Tory cabinet minister used his blog to claim that the government was wrong to regard date rape as seriously as assaults by strangers.

As the Guardian reports,Redwood blames the government for low conviction rates for rape, arguing that Labours doctrine of equivalence had led to jury scepticism about many rape claims and added: Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date.

Not surprisingly, Redwoods comments have angered many. At Amnesty, we responded by pointing out that theres very little difference between rape by a partner and rape by a stranger both can leave a woman deeply traumatised. Listen to   Heather Harvey from Amnesty on BBC Londons Vanessa Feltz show by clicking here.

David Cameron will be angry too. As the Home office Minister Vernon Coaker points out, its only a month since the Conservative leader highlighted the appallingly low conviction rates for rape: just 5.7%.

Cameron was right to draw attention to this, especially in terms of challenging public attitudes. Our opinion poll from 2005 showed that a staggering one third of people in the UK believe that a woman is partly responsible for her own rape if she has been flirting, drinking alcohol or wearing revealing clothing.

The answer includes more dedicated funding for specialist services like rape crisis centres as the End Violence Against Women Coalition (of which Amnesty is a part) pointed out recently, victims face a postcode lottery when it comes to provision of such services and a government-led campaign to challenge prejudicial attitudes. Longer-term, we need an integrated government strategy to combat all forms of violence against women. The Conservatives should support these measures.

The Guardian also has two stories about sex tourism.   Julie Blindel writes about the girlfriend trade, where men do not just buy sex but have a woman for the duration of their stay in countries such as Venezuela and Thailand. The women, many of whom enter the sex trade as children, move in with their clients and spend 24 hours a day with them. All this is the subject of Channel 4s programme My Boyfriend, the Sex Tourist, tonight at 10pm.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam is apparently going to clean up its red light district. Officials want to free up parts of historic area for lucrative development oh, and cut down on human trafficking and petty crime. I heard the other day that Amsterdam is also due to adopt a smoking ban, just like the one we adopted in the UK in the summer. A good move but what will it do to the citys famous coffee shops and how many men, denied easy, and legal, access to prostitutes and the chance to smoke cannabis in a café, will travel elsewhere?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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