Ruth Davidson: rape clause just involves ticking a box
Ruth Davidson - Image credit: David Anderson/Holyrood
Ruth Davidson has faced criticism after claiming that the rape clause just involves putting “a tick in a box” and putting “their name on it”.
The Scottish Conservative leader has repeatedly defended the controversial clause, which offers an exemption to the UK’s Government’s two-child limit on tax credits if a woman can prove a third child was conceived as the result of rape.
This involves filling out an eight-page form, which includes naming the child who was conceived as a result of rape, as well as providing the DWP with evidence the rape took place, such as a conviction in which they were the victim or testimony from a professional such as a doctor or the police, and confirming she is not living with the child’s father.
The Tories have suggested that a health professional will fill out the form on behalf of the woman, but in Scotland neither the NHS nor any third sector organisation will facilitate this.
Ruth Davidson under fire from MSPs for defending tax credits 'rape clause'
Nicola Sturgeon: Ruth Davidson ‘utterly shameful’ for supporting the rape clause
Ruth Davidson accuses Nicola Sturgeon of ‘gross hypocrisy’ over two-child tax credits policy
Ruth Davidson told STV’s Scotland Tonight: “If there was better ways at doing that we should always look at them.
“The system which is in place does not require some of the things that people have said it does.
“It does not require women to fill out a multi-page form; it is about making sure a third party that does it for them.
“All they have got to do is tick a box and put their name on it.”
Other parties have reacted with outrage, with Labour calling it “sickening”, the SNP “misleading” and the Lib Dems describing it as “bureaucratising the unacceptable”.
SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has been leading the party’s opposition to the clause in the House of Commons, said: “Rather than just ‘tick a box’, the form clearly that a woman must fill in her own details and her child's name, and then discuss her situation in enough detail that a third party professional can be sure that her ‘circumstances, as described, are consistent’ with her child having been conceived as a result of rape.
“This cannot be done without the risk of re-traumatising the woman and worryingly that includes the child’s name – both issues of concern raised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
“There is also a specific danger for women in Northern Ireland – that version of the rape clause form carries a warning that a third party being informed of rape has a duty to report this to the police. This could put women in Northern Ireland at increased risk.
“Victims support groups and health professionals have been absolutely clear that it’s not their role to assess this trauma or to arbitrate over a rape claim – and the UK government have offered no training on the policy on sexual violence to the 660,000 nurses, doctors and social workers across the UK who are expected to sign off on the rape clause form.
“Ruth Davidson is deliberately misleading people about the appalling consequences of the Tory two-child cap and rape clause – and she must immediately retract these demonstrably false claims.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: "It is absolutely sickening to watch Ruth Davidson defend the rape clause.
“To say this is a box ticking exercise is to trivialise the most horrifying of experiences a person can go through.
“Ruth Davidson is trying to pretend to Scots that she's a different type of Tory, but this is the Nasty Party at its most vile.
“If Ruth Davidson is really as important to the Tory party as she is trying to claim, then this policy won't make the Tory manifesto.”
And Scottish Liberal Democrat social security spokesperson Caron Lindsay said: "Ruth Davidson is wrong to make out that completing this form is a trauma-free exercise.
“Imagine how you would feel writing down your child's name and signing that their conception was non-consensual. What would be going through your mind?
"The Tories are bureaucratising the unacceptable and Ruth should be calling her colleagues out on it, not defending it."
This follows a heated debate in the Scottish Parliament last week where the SNP, Labour, Lib Dems and Greens all voted against the cuts to tax credits.