Teachers joined multicultural and women’s groups, other unions and feminist groups to call for an end to violence against women as part of the Sydney International Women’s Day rally and march on March 12.
Hundreds of women and men gathered in Hyde Park in Sydney to hear about the serious issues facing women around the world and to call for safety and equality for all women. The rally called for:
- an end to the deaths of women as a result of domestic violence
- an end to the closure of women’s refuges
- secure government funding of crisis accommodation for women and their children
- universal domestic violence leave entitlements and protection of the employment of women experiencing domestic violence.
Jenna Price, from the Destroy the Joint organisation, spoke to the assembled crowd about the important work of the movement for gender equality and civil discourse in the field. Of the Counting Dead Women campaign she said, “We count these women because they need to count.” She told stories of 10 women who had so far been killed in violence in Australia in 2016 (a number that increased to 13 three days following the rally), including one who had been turned away from refuges in the week leading up to her death, highlighting the crisis in emergency accommodation exacerbated by cuts in government funding.
Sharon McKinnon from the NSW Coalition for Women’s Refuges, spoke in more detail about this crisis. Recent research conducted by the group found that more than a third of women’s refuges are not contactable after hours and more than half could not admit women outside of business hours.
Even when they are open, refuges are turning women away because they are at capacity. Jenna also spoke about “8 times”, a campaign to see non-fatal strangulation in domestic violence treated much more seriously in Australian law.
A woman who survives strangulation by her partner is eight times more likely than those exposed to other forms of domestic abuse to later become the victim of homicide.Despite this, women presenting at emergency wards after domestic violence are not routinely screened for signs of strangulation, it is not recorded as a unique offence, and charges of assault or attempted murder are rarely laid in such circumstances.
Jenna outlined how people can join the campaign to have state laws changed. Details are available on Destroy the Joint’s Facebook page.
Liza Maza, a Filipina human rights activist and representative of the Gabriela Women’s Party in the Philippine Parliament, spoke about the importance of global solidarity in the fight for women’s rights.
She highlighted the case of Qatar Airlines, whose contracts, according to the International Transport Workers Federation, require women to gain permission from the company to marry and reserve the employer’s right to sack pregnant workers.
After the rally, people marched through the city streets to call for an end to the violence.
International Women’s Day may happen only once a year but teachers and others can continue the critical work to protect the lives and safety of women around the world by continuing to insist the issue receives public attention.