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Speech: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 25 Nov 2019

'We are mothers, wives and daughters, and we deserve to feel safe wherever we go.' Those are Rana Elasmar's words. Last week she was with friends in a cafe in Sydney when a man approached their table. He shouted racist vitriol at her, punched her and then stomped on her head. She was the target of racist violence, as so many other Muslim women have been. The footage of the attack is absolutely sickening. Even those who do not know what it is to live life in constant, lingering fear of racist violence and abuse could not be unmoved by the brutal inhumanity of the attacker's hate. I do thank the bystanders who had the courage to intervene.

Just last week, research found that the percentage of Islamophobic attacks requiring hospitalisations has jumped from two per cent to five per cent since 2017. The Islamophobia in Australia report from Charles Sturt University found most incidents of racism towards Muslims involved the targeting of women. We should be able to go about our lives free from violence, harassment and intimidation, but we can't, because attacks on women like Rana, and the pervasive hatred that fuels them, persist and are getting worse.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we remember every woman whose life has been marred by violence. We say plainly that society remains bound by patriarchy and women remain subjected to the violence perpetrated by men. One in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. One in two women killed worldwide are killed by their partners or family. All women, whether they have experienced violence or not, live under its threat. We have no choice but to feel the myriad ways in which our lives are forcibly shaped by it.

Today we mourn the 50 women in Australia, so far this year, who have died due to violence, and we acknowledge the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy The Joint, who do this heartbreaking and difficult work. Too often their stories go untold. Too often their names are forgotten, lost in the media cycle and in an indifferent world numb to the lives behind the fleeting headlines. To end violence against women we must address its root structural causes. We must dismantle the systemic gender power imbalances and the social, emotional and economic inequalities that result. Otherwise, the untold heartache and sorrow of women being killed will continue. We have a right to be safe, we have a right to live and we have the right to be equal.


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