UK Government “Rape Clause” For Claiming Child Benefit Inhuman And Degrading

10th April 2017 / United Kingdom

By Lara ten Caten The Government has unveiled regulations requiring women to prove they have been raped in order to claim child tax credits for more than two children.

The so-called “rape exemption” is among regulations that came into force last Thursday 6th April.

If the exemption does not apply, a family will only be able to claim tax credit for up to two children.

The new rules were laid before Parliament on 15 March 2017 – just three weeks ago. They have not been subjected to any scrutiny.

The Government is trying to sneak in a law that will have the effect of forcing some vulnerable women to disclose highly personal information to strangers. This will inevitably lead to re-traumatisation.

For the “rape exemption” to apply, women have to:

  • disclose to third parties that they have been raped AND
  • leave the home they share with the rapist. (Given that only 10 per cent of rapes are committed by strangers, and the vast majority are committed by a man known to the woman concerned – or even in a relationship with the woman concerned – it is likely to be the case that a significant number of victims may still be living in the same household as their rapist).

Inhuman and degrading

Forcing women to disclose that they have been raped will be highly distressing and amounts to victimising these women all over again. Most do not want to talk about the rape for fear of being disbelieved or because of cultural stigma.

Unless women agree to leave the home that they share with their rapist, they will be punished by not being able to claim tax credits for the third or subsequent child.

Asking women to talk to strangers about their ordeal and forcing them to leave their homes is inhuman and degrading, and an unreasonable interference with their private and family life, in clear breach of the Human Rights Act.

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Suffer little children

It is not only women who will suffer. Their children will suffer too.

Even in non-rape cases, these harsh rules would also affect children in families where a parent unexpectedly stops working through disability – they would only be able to claim child tax credit for the first two children.

This discriminatory treatment of those with a disability would be a further contravention of the Government’s human rights and equality obligations.

The “rape exemption” is oppressive and will expose women to inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as violating the right to respect for a private and family life of mothers and children alike.

It must be scrapped – and replaced with a system which a respects the human rights of all those affected.

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