International Women’s Day – It’s more important than you think

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Today is International Women’s Day and you would be forgiven for thinking it’s just another one of ‘those days’ on the calendar year with a name attached. You would also be forgiven for thinking we have come so far that surely in Australia, or the UK or USA we’re pretty good about equality for women, and it’s just in the developing countries that we need to focus the work.

Of course that’s not to say that there’s a disproportionate amount of work to be done in developing countries by comparison, but we are a long way off equal in our own back yard.

Violence against women is one of  the world’s biggest human rights issues.

In Australia, 1 in 3 women will experience violence at the hands of their partner. 1 in 3. That’s huge.

17 Australian women have lost their lives already this year alone in the first 3 months of this year at the hands of their partners. 

“In Australia, one in five women report experiencing sexual violence since the age of 15. Domestic violence is the biggest cause of homelessness for Australian women, with almost half of the women with children staying in homeless assistance services escaping domestic violence. Women are four times more likely to experience sexual assault by someone they know, rather than a stranger. News today from the Australian Crime Commission finds that almost 75% of female homicide victims (between 2008 and 2010) had been killed by their male partner.”


Australian women affected by violence in their life
Affected by violence over 15 57% 5.1 million
Been physically assaulted 48% 4.3 million
Been sexually assaulted 34% 3 million
Experienced violence by a current or previous partner 16% 1.4 million
Experienced sexual harassment in their workplace 20% 1.5 million
Experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life 33% 3 million
Experienced unwanted sexual touching 25% 2.2 million

 

Source:

Australian Institute of Criminology,‘International Violence Against Women Survey: Australian Component’ (2004);

Australian Human Rights Commission, ‘Sexual Harassment: Serious Business’ (2008).

 

What about the pay scale? There’s still a gap there too.

“Women doing the same job as men are supposed to be paid the same by law. However, many women still find themselves underpaid and too often miss out on the best jobs, resulting in a 18% gender pay gap. Unions believe everyone’s work should be valued properly. Closing the pay gap and providing more opportunities for working women are major priorities for unions.

Facts

  • Women in full-time paid work still earn 18% less than men or $1 million less over a lifetime
  • Women are now more likely to have a tertiary qualification than men, but women graduates will earn $2000 less than male graduates and $7500 less by the fifth year after graduation
  • Fewer than 2% of ASX 200 companies have a female CEO and only 1 in 12 board directors are women
  • Women retire with less than half the amount of savings in their superannuation accounts compared with men
  • Under the former Coalition Government’s WorkChoices laws, the pay gap widened for the first time in 25 years, as thousands of women lost penalty rates and other important job conditions and minimum wages were cut in real terms.”

(Source: http://www.actu.org.au/Campaigns/EqualPayandBetterJobsforWomen.aspx)

Sure, it’s sometimes men at the ends of violence from women which should also be condemned, but the statistics tell the tale of exception rather than rule here as overwhelmingly this is a gender problem affecting women.

I wonder if our perceptions of what it means to be male is influencing this.

In fact, here’s an interesting thing in Google trends. We only search for International Men’s Day when International Women’s Day is mentioned. Perhaps there’s a bit of ‘what about me’ syndrome when we do talk about the gender gap.

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So, there’s a lot to be done, it’s evident. But what about the gender gap in other countries?

  • 18-year-old Ben Moynihan randomly attacked three women in the street in the UK, allegedly because he was distraught over being a virgin
  • After Rolling Stone published a story about an alleged 2012 gang rape at the University of Virginia, USA, media outlets began a witch hunt against the main source and the reporter.
  • Because one in five American men thinks it’s okay to hit their wives and girlfriends
  • When Felicia Day spoke out about how she had become afraid of being targeted by Gamergate supporters, they immediately retaliated by posting Day’s home address and contact information in the article’s comment section
  • Margot Wallström dubbed eastern Congo the “most dangerous place on earth to be a woman“. 48 women are raped every hour. Research shows 12% of the country’s women have been raped at least once, and the crisis is not confined to conflict areas.
  • An appalling 26% of all modern slaves or 5.5 million are children under 18, the majority underage girls forced into child prostitution and pornography.

So let’s celebrate the advances that have happened to get us to where we are now, but not to forget the work that still needs to be done at home or abroad.

Here are the women and girls I met recently on a trip to Uganda in November. There is so much hope in their eyes and a real zest for life. Whether it’s someone on the other side of the world, or your neighbour hiding the bruises under her makeup, let’s share the hope and spread the word that it’s everyone’s duty to bring equality to women all over the world.

Girls in Uganda

Mother and daughter in Uganda

schoolgirls Uganda

Girl in Uganda

If you are experiencing violence, contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT or to visit their website

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