One year on, protesters say the "unworkable" policy must be scrapped
Activists are stepping up the pressure on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to scrap the rape clause.
A demonstration will be held on Thursday 19 April at 5.30pm, on The Mound, Edinburgh, one year on since its implementation.
The widely condemned policy caps child tax credits at two children, slashing support for any third or subsequent children unless they meet the limited exemption criteria.
One such exemption - the rape clause - deems that if a third or subsequent child is born of rape then the mother must complete an 8-page form and have it verified by a third party to claim benefits.
Last year Scottish women’s organisations Rape Crisis and Scottish Women’s Aid warned about the impact of the policy and announced that local centres would not collude by acting as third party verifiers.
It comes as work and pensions secretary Esther McVey told the Scottish parliament’s social security committee that the rape clause “provided an opportunity” for sexual assault victims and described victims talking about their rape to DWP staff as offering “potentially double support.”
An organiser responsible the protest said: “The two-child cap is an attack on the very concept of social security as a safety net that is supposed to be ready to catch each and every one of us if we fall. This is a policy blames the poor for their poverty and takes no account of the unpredictability of life.
“Esther McVey’s appearance in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, illustrated the alarming lack of understanding about the complexities and reality of sexual violence. No woman should be forced to choose between disclosing rape possibly for the first time ever and poverty. It is a disgrace.
“We cannot get rid of the rape clause without getting rid of the entire two-child cap, so we are clear: they both must go.”
Alison Thewliss MP, who has campaigned against the clause from the beginning, said that charities and other agencies have warned that these measures will push thousands into poverty, and be hugely damaging to women.
She added: “There remains an overwhelming amount of opposition to the two child policy and rape clause – clearly demonstrated by the number of people due to attend Thursday’s upcoming protest in Edinburgh – which the UK government cannot continue to ignore. Concessions have already been made in other areas, and it would be good if the two-child cap were to follow as the next U-turn.”
No woman should be forced to choose between disclosing rape possibly and poverty
Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said that hinging benefits on proving trauma isn’t a choice and could well “re-traumatise” women.
“That the DWP have rolled out this now notorious policy in the face of widespread criticism and the refusal of any organisation in Scotland to collude as third-party verifiers is unacceptable,” she said.
“Our priority is and has always been survivors of sexual violence and we are deeply concerned that this policy violates their human rights, and puts their wellbeing at risk.
"We will therefore continue to speak out against and support all efforts to revoke the two-child cap and rape clause as a matter of urgency.”
A spokesperson for the DWP said that it was ensuring women in "these awful circumstances" are supported in every way so they can receive the help that they need.
They added: “We have always been clear that this policy will be delivered in the most effective, compassionate way, with the right exceptions and safeguards in place.”