International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Monday, 25 November 2019
Article by Mollie Bodian
In the earlier stages of my career, almost one in four women still experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. I’m talking several decades ago, right? Sadly, this is where we are in 2019.
Whilst gender equality has made some positive steps in the last decade, violence against women has not seen a significant reduction. This is despite an increased media focus, through campaigns such as #MeToo, a global movement bringing attention to the wide-spread issue of sexual harassment and assault.
In 1999, the UN declared November 25th International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The aim is to raise awareness of and continue to drive action against all forms of violence that Women across the world still experience today.
So, what has changed 20 years on?
Not enough, fast enough.
Twenty years ago, a study by the National Crime Prevention found that one in twenty young people considered forcing a partner to have sex, throwing things like plates at each other and regular slapping or punching to be part of “normal conflict” rather than “domestic violence”.
You would still struggle to find a female today who has not had a personal experience of violence against them or someone close to them. This could be in the form of unwanted sexual advances, rape, physical or emotion intimidation, domestic violence at home, the list could go on. Last week, I was reading about a man charged with murder in Berala, Sydney for allegedly stabbing his wife to death. This is not uncommon, on average in Australia, one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner.
A more recent study involving UNSW found that a concerning number of Australians still hold similar outdated and harmful views as 1999. With 21% of participants believing that ‘sometimes a woman can make a man so angry he hits her when he didn’t mean to’. Despite some vocal campaigns over the last few years, there still seems to be stigma around talking about personal experiences of violence openly. There is still a culture of victim blaming and fear of not being believed.
How often do we still hear things like “he was just joking”, “Why was she walking in the dark”, “she was wearing a short dress”, and “she was drunk”, “be aware of your surroundings”, “don’t wear headphones when walking alone”? We have even seen such arguments made in court. Where is the perpetrator in all this? Women do not make these acts happen, people, overwhelmingly men, commit these acts of violence against women.
To evoke substantial change we need to work together, with boys and girls, men and women alike to expose and educate on the impact of violence against women and that it is never excusable. We need to stop the victim blaming and instead understand and tackle the problem. Exposure to violence is also a factor which adds to the likelihood of men committing violence against women. The trail of destruction extending to not only women but children and others exposed. To break the cycle we all have a duty to act.
So, what can we do?
The NSW Diversity and Inclusion committee have continued efforts throughout 2019 to promote action towards a gender equal society. Striving for equality goes hand in hard towards eliminating violence against Women.
How are you or could you support a move towards a gender equal society? Gender equality initiatives in the workplace are stereotyped as being female led. Is this true for your workplace? What initiatives are running and what can you do to get involved? We need more male role models and champions to take action and condemn violence.
How often do you still hear “don’t be such a girl”, “stop crying like a girl”? I hear these quite commonly used to children in public places. Be conscious of the words you use and what you are indicating through your communication. Many still think it is harmless but this contributes to inequality and a lack of respect towards women by essentially communicating the notion to be a woman is less or bad. Empower our females!
A huge number of us spend more time in the workplace than in our own home. One in Four women still experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable and is not always unseen. Stand up and speak out whether you observe physical violence or a sexist comment, do not let it pass unspoken, silence is affirming, saying nothing supports it continuing.
Raise awareness, champion positive role models, do not accept victim blaming. Whilst inroads have been made, we are not there yet. Educate your sons, male colleagues, male family members and friends on respecting women, the different forms of violence, their responsibility in changing our current state and make it known that violence is inexcusable. Do not let the issue fall silent. #HearMeToo
If you suspect a woman you know is affected by violence or you are yourself, there are people who want to help. In Australia, phone the 24/7 hotline 1800RESPECT or visit https://www.1800respect.org.au/
Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape
is the 2019 theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The 25th also marks the start of 16 days of activism. Find out how you can get involved here: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism
Wear Orange on the 25th November to show your support. Share your thoughts, examples and initiatives to drive change using the hashtags: #GenerationEquality #orangetheworld and #spreadtheword.