Friday, January 28, 2011

Australia Day Speech: Speaking out against Violence Against Women

In November last year I was one of the Male Parliamentarians for the Elimination of Violence against Women who took the White Ribbon Pledge – not to commit, not to condone and not to stay silent about violence against women.  One of the things we committed to was to raise awareness of the issue within our electorates, and I want to do something about discharging that obligation today.
A core part of Australian citizenship is respect for Australian law and the Australian legal system. And a core part of the Australian legal system is that violence against women, sometimes referred to as domestic violence or family violence, is never acceptable.
Domestic violence is an abuse of power perpetrated mainly, but not only, by men against women either during a relationship or after separation.  It can take many forms – physical violence, coercive sex, emotional abuse, such as blaming the woman for all the problems in a relationship, or constantly undermining their self-esteem and self-worth, forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people – in effect imprisonment. It can take the form of using religious teachings or cultural tradition as an excuse for violence.
In Australia religious teachings and cultural traditions are not more important than the right of women to equal treatment with men, not more important than the right of all of us to be free of violence or the fear of it, nor are they more important than Australian law.  And practices such as so-called ‘honour’ killings, dowry murder, trafficking in women and girls, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages are all breaches of Australian law and are not allowed in this country.
Unfortunately surveys suggest that our laws against domestic violence are often broken. In the last 12 months one in 20 women (5%) have experienced physical violence, that is assault, attempted assault, or the threat of assault. 
Over 50% of Australian women report experiencing at least one incident of physical violence or sexual violence by a man during their lifetime.
Sadly, much of this violence is perpetrated on women by men who they know. Among women physically assaulted in the last 12 months, the most frequent category of perpetrators was current or previous male partners.  The second most frequent category was male family members or friends.  The most common location for physical assaults to occur for women is in their own home.
I hope you will agree with me that this is unacceptable and has to change. Being a good Australian man or woman means building safe and healthy relationships – partnerships, involving joint decision making and shared responsibilities.  It means economic equality, emotional honesty, respect.  It means supporting your partner’s goals and valuing their opinions.
Member for Wills

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