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The Last Word (for now) re Gender - Based Violence

-Image by Roel Wijnants licenced under CC ND

Saturday, 27 April 2024

I had hoped to finish on a happier note this month, but this weekend women all over Australia have been marching in protest at yet another murder of a mother and her three children. Quite a few men have been marching too, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. 

Many are calling for a Royal Commission, but I have little faith. The Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody which ran from 1987 to 1991, resulted in 399 recommendations, very few of which have been implemented with the result that 470 Aboriginal people have died in custody since. The huge expense involved could have been better spent improving conditions for Australia’s indigenous people instead. Much the same can be said with respect to the Royal Commission into Aged Care in 2018. It too, revealed many tragic stories of abuse and neglect and resulted in a large number of recommendations, but again, so far very little has changed, though not for want of trying. 

As far as Domestic Violence goes, there have already been countless enquiries, consultations and submissions. The issues are known. Five- and Ten-Year Plans have been drawn up. Let’s just bring them forward and put them into practice. One action which is already being taken, is the establishment of a National Firearms Register which will give police real time information, rather than having to rely on inconsistent records of individual states. Giving women the right to carry pepper spray is another easy fix which could be implemented right away. Perhaps, as one Twitter/X respondent remarked," Treat men who are violent towards women as terrorists. If the latter were killing any Australian every four days, the entire army would be mobilised."

Spain as a Leader in Preventing Domestic Violence

We could also take a leaf out of Spain’s book.  Spanish women marched  in 1997 after the murder of Ana Orantes, 13 days after she had appeared on television detailing the 40 years of abuse she had suffered at the hands of her husband, who then went on to kill her.

This resulted  in remarkable changes to the law in 2004, almost a decade before the Istanbul Convention came into existence and these served as a model for many other countries from Switzerland to Brazil, Germany, Egypt, and Turkey. It specifically called it Gender – Based Violence  rather than Domestic Violence to indicate that it was not just something which happens at home and behind closed doors.  

Of particular note, are the stipulation that there must be  specialist courts and police units to provide the necessary gendered perspective* and its unique methods of risk assessment using VioGen which is partly based upon an extensive questionnaire about 43 historical indicators in the partner's past, and partly on 22 dynamic risk and protective factors. This includes repeated monitoring, visits by the Ministry of the Interior and control bracelets for abusers. The system is also continuously being reviewed and upgraded in the light of new research.

Although the rate of gender - related violence has increased by 8.3% in Spain over the last year or so, as it has in many other parts of the world  e.g. Western EU (11%), Southern EU (5%), North America (8%) and South America (5%), the increase for Intimate Partner Violence has been much lower in Spain (1.1%) and at 14% is still much lower than in Europe as a whole (22%) or compared to North America (32%). There also appears to be a much higher conviction rate

There are still some weaknesses however. For example, there has been criticism over custody and visitation regimes, which sometimes leave children exposed to abusive partners. Women assaulted by those other than a partner or a former partner, are not generally included and the issue of compensation is still being considered. Unfortunately, Spain's hugely successful Gender - based courts - 700,000 convictions out of 2 million complaints since 2004, are coming under threat from its far right Vox party which wants to to repeal the country's gender- based laws, block abortion access, shut down the Ministry of Equality and revoke consent - "Only yes, means yes," laws. Although Vox lost 19 seats, down from 53, at the 2023 elections, the results remain unclear and the popularity of other conservative parties has increased.  

* To see how vital this is, watch the movie “Unbelievable” (on Netflix, if you can get it). If you haven’t personally been affected by domestic violence or against women, it shows how very differently women react to trauma, why so many women don’t file complaints and why so few cases result in prosecution. This is based on a true story.


Tuesday, 30 April 2024

# 35 RIP

A Couple of Late Entrants especially for Young People


-          Sticky Notes Project –Tasmania - For the Questions you might be too afraid to ask

This a great project which has been conducted in schools by Tasmania’s Sexual Assault Support Service and it is now being turned into a podcast. Basically,  students submit all their questions about sexuality anonymously via sticky notes before a session and these are then answered by the team for the whole class. Great way to get lots of things out in the open.

When I was in school one girl who lived with her grandmother, thought she had caught some terrible disease when her periods started and there were plenty of old wives tales around, like you can’t get pregnant if you do it standing up. These are the kinds of things which the Sticky Notes project would quickly resolve, along with anything you might not feel comfortable talking to your parents about. 
As well as educating students about their bodies, their desires and other issues, it reassures students that they aren’t weird or dumb and perhaps makes them more confident if they need to speak to a doctor or another adult. 
These sessions are now available for free as a podcast wherever you usually get them - Apple, Spotify etc 
It's called Sticky Q. 

-        iMatter App

The iMatter app has been designed especially for young women, focusing on self-esteem and understanding the warning signs of abusive and controlling relationships.  It can be downloaded for free from your app store. Strangely it is also available in PNG and Guyana. I haven't tried this, nor do I know much about it, but I am going to ask the granddaughters to field test it for me. I believe the one we are after is the one by Rosie Batty, who lost her own son to Domestic Violence. Does anyone know what's happened to it? Saw it a few days ago and it seems to have disappeared.



Remember, the iMatter app aims to create a supportive community and raise awareness about healthy relationships. 😊


More on Women Only Police Stations - The Indian Experience

 A law librarian on Twitter directed me to some interesting research by Nirvikar Jassal, on India’s Women Only Police Stations. While such police stations may be expected to offer more empathy and solidarity to women, that is not necessarily the case.

This research from 2020, only covers one state and a relatively short time frame – 20 such stations were opened in 2015, but it would seem that by themselves they do not help either in encouraging women to lodge complaints or in prosecuting cases. Some of the reasons for this include, women having to travel further to access them, but if their inherent culture is the same as that of their male colleagues – patriarchal, the belief that women lie or they trivialise women’s concerns, then it is unlikely that more women will come forward. 

Approximately 30% of cases are dismissed and anecdotal evidence says that women are encouraged to reconcile with their abusers, rather than leave a relationship. Given that there is little in the way of social services, that may be quite reasonable advice and may help to explain the difference between the more successful ones in other countries such as Spain where “Gender Awareness” and Training also play an important role.  

The article notes that women’s only police stations also exist in Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. It would be interesting to hear about their experience. You can read the full article here or American Political Science Review , Volume 114 , Issue 4 , November 2020 , pp. 1035 - 1054

  In Australia, the Domestic Violence and family counselling Service is at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737732) Or for general crisis support call Lifeline  on 13 11 14. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via

[Thanks to Microsoft Bing AI, for rapid response to my questions and useful links]