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Speech: Prevention of Violence Against Women

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 27 Nov 2018

Violence against women is at epidemic levels in our country. Every year we count the numbers and every year they're distressingly high. Last year 53 women were killed, mostly by men known to them. So far this year, 63 women have been brutally murdered, almost six women every single month. Where is the outrage, where is the urgency and where is the change? November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and it's also the start of 16 days of activism against gender based violence, a time to come together and take serious action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The 63 women we have lost this year—I wish we didn't know their names; I wish their faces had never been plastered over the news. It is because their lives were brutally cut short and because of their tragic ends that we know who they are. That should never have been the case. According to Destroy the Joint's incredibly important and no doubt extremely difficult work, Counting Dead Women Australia, these women ranged in ages from 15 to 92, and they came from all corners of Australia.

Fatima Batool was killed by her husband in Hampton Park, Victoria on 7 July, with her young daughter in the house at the time of her murder. That same day, just a few kilometres away, Amanda Harris's body was found stabbed and burnt in a house set alight. Thirty-six year old Amanda was a mother of three. 16-year-old Larissa Beilby left her home in Sandgate, Brisbane, on 15 June. Police found her body wrapped in a tarpaulin in the boot of a vehicle on the afternoon of June 27. A 34-year-old man has been charged with her murder and multiple other offences, including torture. For all the statistics that we do have, we know that the true extent of violence against women remains hidden. A domestic violence incident is reported to police on average every two minutes in Australia, and for every woman who comes forward to make a report, there are dozens in the shadows who aren't able to come forward.

I know that we all share a commitment to ending violence against women in this place, yet each year we count the numbers. Enough is enough. It's painfully obvious that we need to do much more, that this government needs to do much more. Victims and survivors who do reach out rely on a system that is desperately underfunded and overstretched. In the federal government's housing and homelessness funds, not a single cent has been set aside to fund women's refuges. And, as it does so often, the federal government has thrown up its hands and decided that this, again, is a state and territory matter.

There is a dangerous shortage of services for survivors of domestic violence all over the country. The work of the feminist movement that built women's refuges is being eroded at an alarming pace. Governments are refusing to build new women-only refuges and adequately fund specialist services. When I talk to frontline workers, they tell me of a desperate shortage of space in refuges. Too often, they have to turn women away, or ask them to leave the refuge before they are ready to leave, because they just don't have enough beds. At a time when women, some with their children in tow, have taken the brave step to walk away from violence—at not just a vulnerable but a dangerous time in their lives—the very least governments can do is to provide a safe place and much-needed support at this time.

This may be a hard truth for some to confront, but Australia has a shockingly horrendous record on domestic violence. The fundamental reason for violence against women is the vast inequality between genders, misogyny and the oppressive patriarchal system that we live under. There's no hiding the fact that, unfortunately, we have senators in this very chamber who want to roll back the gains that women have made over many decades, senators who would rather talk about 'men's rights' than discuss the violence women face in our country. There's no more pretending that domestic violence doesn't exist. For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate. Let's not stay silent anymore.


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