Eliminating violence against women

New Delhi: RMIT experts reflect on progress ahead of International Day of the Prevention of Violence Against Women.

Orange the world campaign The day marks the start of the United Nations’ 16 days of activism against gender-based violence under the global theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”. Source: UN Women
Combatting technology facilitated forms of abuse
Associate Professor in Criminology and Justice Studies Anastasia Powell says there’s evidence that violence against women may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also points to reports of technology facilitated forms of abuse more than doubling compared with those in 2019, according to figures from the e-Safety Commissioner.

“For women, technology facilitated abuse such as so-called revenge porn is most often perpetrated by an intimate partner and associated with multiple forms of abuse, including physical violence,” she says.

“The root cause of violence against women is gender inequality and is the key to preventing it from happening in the first place.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women, widening the gap on gender inequality.

“So, the urgent task before us is to ensure we build gender equality into our national agenda for economic recovery.”
Promoting healthy masculinities
This year we’ve witnessed a rise in domestic gender-based violence, with males overrepresented as perpetrators of this violence, notes Senior Lecturer in the School of Media and Communication Dr Glen Donnar.

He says social marketing campaigns are one way to help bring about attitude change but adds “males are especially unresponsive, even actively resistant, to social marketing messages they feel threaten their sense of control and question their competence.”

This not only inhibits the possibility of attitude and behaviour change, but negatively impacts the wellbeing of all men and women.

“These individual behavioural interventions are insufficient to encourage difficult to reach and persuade male target audiences because they fail to preserve senses of control, competence and agency,” he explains.

“Social marketing campaigns targeted at male cohorts must deploy more nuanced presentations of gender and genuinely involve them throughout the life of the campaign to change deeply held attitudes and widely practiced behaviours.”

Men in hard hats
Preventing workplace sexual harassment
More Australian women are coming forward with historical complaints of workplace sexual harassment during the pandemic, according to senior lecturer in law Dr Elizabeth Shi.

“This is potentially because more women are working from home during COVID-19 and do not have to work side by side with the perpetrators, which has emboldened them to make formal complaints,” she says.

In a 2018 national survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, 43% of survey respondents reported they suffered negative consequences after making a complaint about sexual harassment.

“The negative consequences women suffer after complaining must be acknowledged and addressed if we are serious about eliminating workplace sexual harassment,” she says.

“It is time for law-makers, employers, human resources professionals and trade unions to take the lead and make real changes to end workplace sexual harassment.”

Employer obligations
“Women are at the frontline of workers disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and exposed to violence during the pandemic, warns researcher Lisa Heap.
Many work in the lowest paid jobs “and are more likely to have lost employment and to fail to qualify for supports like Job Keeper,” she adds.

At the same time, “enforced working from home has exposed women to more instances of domestic and family violence, presenting a new set of challenges for employers to respond.

“Employers have obligations to manage the work-related aspects of domestic and family violence, but the pandemic has challenged the capacity of employers to respond effectively regarding this obligation where women are working at home.

Recovery plans and stimulus packages must consider the gendered impact of COVID-19, while industries worst hit, where women are the majority, should be prioritised for resources.

“The federal government should immediately commit to ratifying the ILO’s recently adopted Convention on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. The Convention will give workers and employers the tools to combat violence and harassment at work,” Heap says.

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