New stalking offences come into force
Two specific criminal offences of stalking have come into force in England and Wales for the first time. The government is also providing new support aimed at reducing domestic and sexual violence, and female genital mutilation (FGM).
The Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said: "Stalking is an appalling crime that destroys lives. The impact on victims can be devastating and we are doing all we can to make sure they have the protection they need and do not have to live in fear.
"These new offences send a clear message to offenders that stalking is a serious crime and they will be brought to justice for making others' lives a misery."
The new offences sit alongside ones of harassment in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. They are designed to provide extra protection for victims, highlight the serious impact stalking can have on them and help bring more perpetrators to justice.
Browne also announced extra support to tackle violence against women and girls. This includes a £150,000 fund for domestic homicide reviews to help prevent domestic violence tragedies, and the launch of a declaration against FGM and £50,000 funding to support frontline agencies tackling the problem.
One in four women in the UK will be the victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime and over the past year more than 300,000 were sexually assaulted and 60,000 raped.
The equalities minister Helen Grant said: "New stalking offences will ensure victims of this heinous crime are better protected and will bring more offenders to justice.
"The government's ambition is nothing less than ending all forms of violence against women and girls. But we must also ensure that if people's lives are affected by crime, the right kind of help or support is available.
"For the first time we have made sure nearly £40m of government funding is in place for organisations that do so much to help victims, often with so little. And we are changing the way we provide wider funding to ensure victims' services are better matched to the problems faced in local communities."
The government is also working to help victims around the world.
Lynne Featherstone, the ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas, said: "The government is working in over 20 countries to tackle violence against women and girls. We have already helped deliver successful programmes to respond to domestic abuse and violence in conflict, but there is still so much more to do.
"I want to use my role to ensure we challenge mindsets and allow women to live free from the threat of violence. In particular, we must all play our part to support efforts to end the horrific practice of FGM. By putting FGM on the mainstream development agenda, I want to encourage others to step in with much-needed political and financial resources."