We all know the Australian statistics, they are repeated so often within a context of government and community relative inaction, as to become almost meaningless in some quarters.
In Australia more than one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
- 1 in 3 Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
- 1 in 5 Australian women has experienced sexual violence.
- More than two-thirds (68%) of mothers who had children in their care when they experienced violence from their previous partner said their children had seen or heard the violence.
- There is growing evidence that women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women report experiencing violence in the previous 12 months at 3.1 times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
- In 2014–15, Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence as non-Indigenous women.
Using an internationally recognised definition, violence against women is any act of gender based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life.
It should include not only intimate partner violence and homicide, sexual assault and rape, sexual harassment, trafficking, female genital mutilation, economic and psychological violence but also vilification and hate speech.
International data provides similar incidences of men’s violence against women as Australia’s. Globally, 1 in 3 women experiences physical or sexual violence. There is some evidence however that different strategies are more effective in high income and low income countries and, within countries, in high income and low income groups eg advocacy and counselling may be more effective for high income groups, while economic and social empowerment may be most effective in low income groups. Further research is needed in this area.
Men’s violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread and devastating human rights abuses. It is also one of the most unreported, with some forms of MVAWG, such as vilification, hate speech and incitements to violence, not even being recognised as violence. For example, the 2014 – 2016 Queensland community campaign against the vilification of women and girls by Wicked Campervan slogans and images resulted in the Government targeting only Wicked Campervans. Feminists argued, however, that Wicked Campervans was only the tip of the iceberg, that existing anti vilification legislation that protects people on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality and gender identity but not sex, needed to be extended to protect women and girls as well. Government spokespeople said this would “open the floodgates” and rejected the proposal.
The inconsistency between national government sign ons to high level global plans and actual support provided by individual national governments to practical measures is stark. For example, Australia was not only a signatory but a co sponsor of the World Health Organisation’s 2016 global plan of action on violence against women and girls, and also against children. Under its 4 strategic directions, the plan includes a commitment to “strengthen programming to prevent interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children”.
Australia’s leaders have repeatedly said that family violence is a “national emergency”, but have not provided the funding needed for victims to leave violent situations. Current commitments do not match the reality and the urgency of the need.
The 2018 federal budget demonstrated just the most recent failure of the Federal Government to match the stated desire to take violence against women seriously with the necessary national funding commitment.
The 2018 budget allocated just $18.2 million to frontline family violence services and to increasing national awareness of the issue. This is inclusive of funding provided to community legal services that provide vital legal assistance, and the $11.5 million committed over two years (2018-19) to 1800 RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and information referral service.
In announcing the 2018 Budget, then Treasurer Scott Morrison said one of the priority commitments was “keeping Australians safe”. Morrison was referring only to anti terror and security measures and he did not include women and children in his understanding of “Australians” because intimate partner violence and homicide are greater threats to safety than terrorism.
In comparison, at the state level in 2017 the Victorian government allocated $1.9 billion to address family violence by implementing the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
The Federal Government’s lack of commitment to supporting frontline services to keep women and children safe needs to be turned around. Strong advocacy is required.