Closer to Ending Violence Against Women in 2017?

In looking at the year that was in 2016, we have a long way to go in relation to curbing the prevalence of gender based violence globally, regionally, as well as in the hearts and homes of Australians.

Reflecting on Gender Based Violence in 2016

So, what were some of the key highlights and lowlights of gender based violence in 2016? 

  1. Illegal brothels were exposed in Sydney
  2. The question was asked: Where do Survivors of prostitution fit in to the conversation about regulation and safety
  3. The connections between Sex Trafficking and the Tech Industry was looked at; 
  4. The Death Penalty was called for the Australian child sex offender Peter Scully in  the Phillipines;
  5. Australian child sex predator Michael Quinn was sentenced to 12 years jail in the USA;
  6. Israel considered criminalising the purchase of sex;
  7. Germany drafted laws giving harsher punishments to pimps and Johns of forced prostitutes;
  8. UN Women considered their policy on sex work, calling for submissions
  9. Young Labor was called upon to re-consider their push for the legalisation of prostitution across Australia
  10. The Australian Federal Government launched an inquiry into Children harmed by Porn, which resulted in the Government being urged to address the viewing of pornography by children; and 
  11. The UNODC 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report was released

UN Women gives us a broader Gender Equality timeline of 2016 here.  

Let’s be honest – there weren’t so many highlights – or wins for gender based violence survivors  in 2016 … 

Although … for the first time, the International Criminal Court attributed responsibility to a warlord for the actions of his troops – the militia who committed mass murder, rape and pillage in the Central African Republic, recognising rape used as a weapon of war and attributing responsibility to the Commander for failing to take action to stop crimes he knew were being committed by his subordinates – in the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The former Congolese vice-president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, was found guilty in the first trial at the international criminal court (ICC) on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war – reported The Guardian.

The verdicts mark the first time the ICC has convicted defendants of rape or command responsibility for the actions of their troops, a legal principle established by other UN tribunals.

(More about this on my Blog here) 

This is a great precedent for both the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, as well as the recognition of liability for sexual gender based violence – with an acknowledgement that leaders have a due diligence obligation to do all they can to prevent such crimes from occurring. 

In other news … Californian Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1322 last year, decriminalising prostitution for minors by preventing law enforcement from arresting people under 18 for soliciting sex or loitering with intent to commit prostitution. 

My understanding is that it remains unlawful for a person under the age of 18 to consent to sexual intercourse in the State of California, and the law allows for law enforcement to report the minor to the county child welfare agency as abuse or neglect, or to take a minor engaged in a commercial sex act into temporary custody under some circumstances, including in the event of immediate physical danger or when medical care is needed.

Some have expressed concerns that this new law may in fact encourage pimps and traffickers to operate more in California, as they can ensure their victims who are minors – will not gain a criminal record for soliciting sex – something that other jurisdictions in the USA still do. In fact, prostitution is still illegal in most parts of America, which has dire consequences for victims of human trafficking, sexual servitude, debt bondage, coercion and grooming – as they may get a criminal record, even though they are victims of the trade. 

This legislation – although decriminalising the act of prostitution of minors, ensuring that the minor does not get a criminal record – does not go far enough. It provides no support, rehabilitation, exit program or counselling for the minor engaged in the sex trade – specific to this kind of trauma and abuse – and does not bring responsibility to the ‘johns’ who bought these children for sex, and does not deal with putting away their pimps – who are monetarily benefiting from selling these children to depraved men – and getting away with it! 

Some of these minors live with their pimps, who, by default – become their guardians. And, as long as men will continue to pay to have sex with children, vulnerable children will continue to be victimised. This demand needs to be addressed. 

The underlying core reason for the above atrocities is simple – the prevalence of gender based violence continues in hearts and minds – and at times, the law does nothing about the violent behaviours that result. 

Violence against women is a global reality – affecting every country in the world. 

Violence against women includes gender based violence perpetrated through physical, psychological, emotional, physical and sexual violence against women and girls – because they are more vulnerable, and because of their gender. 

Case in point:  In Lebanon in late 2016, young women wearing  bloodied bridal gowns protested in front of their Parliament at laws which allowed convicted rapists to forego their sentence merely by ‘marrying’ their victims. 

This is a true example of gender based violence that persists not only in the culture, but also the country’s laws and therefore the hearts and minds of men – continuing to victimise vulnerable women and girls. 

The internationally recognised definition of violence against women is:

“any act of gender based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life” – Article 1 of the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. 

Violence Against Women in Australia 

Violence against women is referred to by many different things, including domestic violence, family violence, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault. Wife rape and honour killings are included in these. 

In Australia, a young migrant bride was burned alive recently, requesting her body be covered up – as it went up in flames in her front driveway. It is still unclear whether her husband lite her intentionally, or if it was an ‘accident’. 

According to Our Watch, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence. 

One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Every year in Australia, over 300,000 women experience violence – often sexual violence – from someone other than a partner.

Young women (18 – 24 years) experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups. There is growing evidence that women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence.

Violence against women is now recognised to be a serious and widespread problem in Australia, with enormous individual and community impacts and social costs. The combined health, administration and social welfare costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year. 
Violence against women and their children takes a profound and long-term toll on women and children’s health and wellbeing, on families and communities, and on society as a whole.
Intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor. Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women, and results in a police call-out on average once every two minutes across the country
Children and young people are also affected by violence against women. Exposure to violence against their mothers or other caregivers causes profound harm to children, with potential impacts on attitudes to relationships and violence, as well as behavioural, cognitive and emotional functioning, social development, and – through a process of ‘negative chain effects’ – education and later employment prospects. 
Violence against women is a fundamental violation of human rights, and one that Australia has an obligation to prevent under international law. 

What is the world doing about curbing the prevalence of gender based violence? 

 In response to the global atrocities of gender based violence, where UN Women, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF reports that: 

– Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive were married as children – below the age of 18 – and as many as 1 in 3 of those, were married below the age of 15.

– At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in 30 countries.

– Women and girls account for 70% of all human trafficking victims detected globally.

– Around 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse.

That’s one in 10 girl.

– Half of all female homicide victims globally reported in 2012 were killed by their intimate partners.

– Up to 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign – iDos personas saltando con pantalones naranjos #orangeurworldnitiated and led by the UNiTE campaign Global Youth Network, Orange Day calls upon activists, governments and UN partners to mobilize people and highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls, not only once a year, on 25 November –  referred to as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – but every month.
UN Women’s “Orange Day” Campaign on the 25th of every month, but specifically on the 25 November is a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls.
But, is it enough to turn your Facebook Profile Pic Orange to raise awareness of gender based violence in our communities and abroad through the UN Women’s Orange Campaign? 
Are these campaigns even successful? 
Of course it is not enough – and often, these campaigns go unnoticed. 
But – it’s a starting point. It’s something. 
It’s a conversation starter – which is advocacy and one step closer to changing the pervasive culture that exists – among all cultures. 

In 2016, Ashton Kutcher’s Organisation Thorn was reported to have assisted in rescuing 6,000 sex trafficking victims and securing 2,000 convictions! 

This is significant, as a prominent, well known actor is behind the hitting of the culture of gender based violence.

In addition, Ashton Kutcher’s very successful on-line campaign: ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Girls‘ – raising awareness of the commodification of women, and again – shifting it’s culture from accepted, to questionable and even ‘uncool’ made a come-back in 2016. 

Organisations such as Destiny Rescue, the International Justice Mission, A21 Campaign and Stop the Traffic continue to work tirelessly to end global slavery in our generation today. Fighting for Justice Foundation continues to partner with like-minded organisations to curb the demand of human trafficking in the Australasia Region and curb the prevalence of gender based violence. 

More on this later. 

What can YOU do about curbing the prevalence of gender based violence? 

Most sobering of all, this significant social problem is ultimately preventable. 

The first step in preventing gender based violence is understanding it – being informed. Understanding root causes, why it prevails and the underlying current that upholds it. 

The second step is the advocacy and lobbying required to change social culture, legislation and common practices. 

The third step is to ensure gender based violence is not occurring in your immediate family, community or sphere of influence. And if it is – doing something about it in a way that is safe for the victim and their child/ren. 

The fourth step is to get behind those already trying to do something about it. 

That’s where your partnership with Fighting for Justice Foundation comes in. 

We propose to set up a Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Centre in Australia which addresses gender based violence, not only to assist those affected by it – through running rehabilitative, restorative and reintegrative services through partnerships with pre-existing services, but also by providing business, leadership and employment opportunities for survivors, outreach into community to prevent the prevalence of gender based violence and to provide advocacy, lobbying and law reform activities to ensure survivors are further protected and supported through legislative reform. 

In believing that our world should – and CAN be free from gender-based violence through gender empowerment and respect, and in believing in FREEDOM from all forms of exploitation, gender based violence and discrimination, FFJF seeks to provide avenues of FREEDOM support for survivors, facilitate social awareness and challenge existing norms, through working collaboratively with existing services to provide holistic care in a therapeutic environment to encourage long-lasting holistic rehabilitation, identity re-formation and gender-based support.

This includes the provision of less adversarial pathways through a consideration of therapeutic jurisprudence and utilising a multi-disciplinary team approach, through  proposed restorative justice pathways, family mediation options, education prevention diversionary programs, outreach support services, reintegration support, group therapy and business and leadership support. 

If you would like to support this start-up initiative – please contact us here, and DONATE today

This project will take all of community’s involvement and contributions – and generous seed funding to get it off the ground! 

Let’s work together to curb the prevalence of gender based violence, which leads to rape, sexual assault, abuse, trauma, homicides, sexual slavery, trafficking, domestic servitude, honour killings, and women enslaved in the sex trade against their will!

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