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Speech: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 23 Nov 2021

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I wish we didn't need this day. I wish that there weren't any reasons for me to speak out about gendered violence in Australia and around the world. But it does serve as a reminder that we still need to take serious action if we are to have any hope of eliminating this violence. Violence against women continues to be at epidemic levels in this country. Every year, we continue to count the numbers, and every year they continue to be distressingly high. The Counting Dead Women Australia project reports that at least 38 women have lost their lives because of violence so far this year. Last year, we lost 56 women, and countless others suffered abuse and violence. We must do everything we can to end all forms of violence against women. We must prevent these deaths.

A report in June this year by the Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Justice confirmed our fears that domestic abuse increased during COVID-19 lockdowns. A study by the Harmony Alliance and Monash University, which was also published in June, found that one-third of migrant and refugee women surveyed had experienced some form of domestic and family violence. Women on temporary visas also experienced high levels of domestic violence. Yet, for so many, support services, such as crisis or social housing, are limited, as are protections against abuse. There is so much that needs to change. The housing crisis we are in particularly impacts people fleeing domestic violence. What happens if someone is fleeing violence and no emergency housing service has the capacity to accommodate them? They will be forced to stay in an abusive relationship. Research by ANROWS published in November 2020 found that almost half of the women murdered by an intimate partner in Queensland had previously been labelled by police as the perpetrator of domestic violence. How is this meant to give us faith in the current system?

An open letter from the Law Council of Australia warned the Attorney-General that the merging of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court would harm families and people experiencing family violence. The government, at the behest of One Nation, still pushed this bill through. I know that if the federal government treated violence against women with the seriousness and with the urgency it deserves we would not be in this position. But we have a real absence of national leadership. We do not have leaders willing to challenge and reform the systems and structures that allow gendered violence to continue. There is no question that violence and sexual assault services need more funding. We need to build women-only refuges and to properly fund specialist services. Women need to know that they will have the support they need when they walk away from violence, abuse and control. But eliminating violence against women isn't as simple as demanding that the government do more; it also demands deep changes in society and in entrenched patriarchal culture, attitudes and systems that allow violence against women to be normalised.

Gendered violence is deeply embedded in society. It affects all of us in both known and unknown ways. It is still painfully obvious that we need to do so much more. Governments need to do more. Society needs to do more. Women across this country have told us in no uncertain terms they will not rest until sexism, misogyny, abuse, violence, rape and assault against us becomes a thing of the past. Be assured that women united will never be defeated. We must listen and we must act to remove the gender inequities that pervade our society, including the gender pay gap, unpaid care work, poverty, sexual violence, harassment and discrimination. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women serves as a reminder of how much work still needs to be done. But my hope is that, in the very near future, we won't have to mark this day because women and children will be respected and be free from violence. I look forward to that day.

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