Girlie Stands Up for an End to Violence against Women

Maree Mee, Freda Om and Dee Vorse

Home Truths

A series of articles in The Sunday Age has highlighted the issue of violence against women. Mary Crooks, Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust, published an opinion piece discussing men’s role in preventing violence against women (The Sunday Age, 18 March 2012) and Nicole Brady published The Home Truth About Violence (4 March 2012) and four other relevant pieces (11 March 2012). These can be viewed on the Victorian Women’s Trust website at http://www.vwt.org.au/initiatives-26-128.html.

Filicide and Separation

The Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria has released a Discussion Paper on ‘filicide’ — the killing of children in the context of relationship break-ups. The paper, ‘Just Say Goodbye’, is by Debbie Kirkwood and includes previously unreleased data from the Australian Institute of Criminology, a literature review and case studies. The research emphasises the significance of separation in filicides and gender differences between perpetrators. It can be purchased from DVRCV, www.dvrcv.org.au.

No Way to Live

In a feature article on violence against women in Papua New Guinea (The Age, 27 March 2012) Jo Chandler reports:

The fear and reality of gang rape and other forms of violent, sometimes murderous attack — enough to inhibit women’s ability to move freely and safely in the capital of Port Moresby and in hot-spots of tribal conflict — was one of the pervasive problems identified by United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo…

Ume Wainetti, national program director of the PNG Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, has advised the UN that while violence against women existed when she was growing up, the situation is now much worse. The loss of routes to safety and support through family and tradition, have left women and children increasingly without refuge. Manjoo has appealed to PNG’s politicians to introduce legislative changes to outlaw family violence as a matter of urgency. She also identified the election of women to the PNG Parliament as critical to improving the status and conditions of women.

I Do Not!

The federal government has vowed to outlaw forced marriages in Australia following an ABC Four Corners program (2 April 2012). Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says coercing people into marriage is unacceptable and will be outlawed in similar ways to trafficking of people and sexual offences. Forced marriages are far more common in Australia than is widely known and women can face terrible consequences if they do not agree. Al-Ghazzali Islamic Centre President Afroz Ali is quoted as saying,

I have seen situations where people have been coerced, that if you do not marry such and such a person we will cut you out of the family. … In some cases, they would be taken back to their land, the land of the father or the mother for example, and potentially, you know, threatened with not only physical violence, but potentially fatalities and murder.

To Tell or Not To Tell…?

The Law Reform Committee of Victoria’s Parliament has recommended retrospective legislation to give all donor-assisted people access to information about their donors. Currently people conceived during and after 1998 have unlimited access to identifying information but those conceived between1 July 1988 and the end of 1997 can only have such access if their donor consents. Those born before 1988 have no access rights.
The report identified many flaws in the IVF industry at the time including poor record-keeping. It estimates that thousands of children were born through sperm donation and there were about 500 donors during that period when a culture of secrecy existed — with many children not even told of their origins. The problem is that donors were promised anonymity and, while Victoria now has a voluntary register, this is of no assistance to people like Narelle Grecht, 29, who has been trying to get information about her donor father particularly since learning she has bowel cancer (The Age, 29 March 2012).

The Law Reform Committee report recommends donors could lodge a ‘contact veto’ which would allow children to find out about the identity of their donor but not make contact. Vetoes could be lodged only after donor parents had been informed their child had applied for information and would lapse within five years if not renewed. Media commentary on the proposals ranges from some doctors who argue the recommendations would breach patient confidentiality while others argue that the rights of the children should prevail — to allow them to know who they are and where they come from.

Caught Short

In March 2012 the federal government passed the National Health (Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement) Act which will allow women to get an emergency supply of the birth control pill without requiring a doctor’s prescription. The same applies to anti-cholesterol drugs for people whose supply has run out. The Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has said the law is to protect patients who would be at risk of missing medication if they’re unable to see a doctor. The emergency supplies will be covered by the PBS.

MAREE MEE, FREDA OM and DEE VORSE are feminist lawyers.

(2012) 37(2) AltLJ 131
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