Socialist Alliance: Women’s rights, not prisons and police

A Reclaim the Night march in Perth last year.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on October 16.

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The Socialist Alliance is proud to gather with fellow feminists to Reclaim the Night around Australia this year.

We share the belief that women, when we organise and forge alliances, can make change. We fight the “victim” tag as we fight sexism and violence against women.

We celebrate women’s survival, women’s organising and women’s achievements even as we mourn our fallen sisters and acknowledge those suffering in homes, streets, organisations, workplaces, prisons and institutions in Australia and around the world.

The silence around sexual violence, including in same-sex relationships, has started to be broken. This is thanks to decades of work by feminists in countries around the world, especially by women in India who have led the campaign internationally to stop violence against women. But we believe the extent of the pain, suffering and humiliation it causes is still not fully acknowledged, even on the left.

Sexual violence devastates communities. The economic system we live under — capitalism — depends on women carrying out unpaid domestic labour which is essential for society to function. Sexual violence is an important tool in continuing this oppression of women. We see combating sexism and sexual violence as essential political tasks in the struggle for a better world.

We support the demands of Reclaim The Night for an end to all forms of violence and harassment against all women. We specifically recognise that this includes trans women, and actively seek to include trans women in the struggle for all women's safety. We support large increases — not cuts — to public funding for refuges, sexual assault programs, legal centres and all community organisations that support women escaping violence and seek to prevent violence. We call for an end to discrimination against trans women seeking to access such services.

We support demands for reform of the criminal justice system to prevent the re-traumatisation and victim-blaming of women who report crimes of sexual violence.

We reject the “law and order” response to sexual violence. We support an end to the criminalisation and victimisation of sex workers and oppose increased police powers, CCTV and other surveillance and the ongoing expansion of the prison industrial complex — now swelling with thousands of incarcerated refugees.

We oppose the hypocrisy of police and politicians who cry crocodile tears for murdered women whilst they imprison Aboriginal and refugee women in ever increasing numbers. We oppose sexual assault by the state in the form of strip-searching and other state-sanctioned violence in prisons, detention centres and state institutions.

We support the work of feminist and other community organisations that imagine and develop innovative ways to build safety and human solidarity. We support funding for anti-violence programs and models that take account of systemic disadvantage and discrimination and strike at the roots of violence by building safe environments and responses to domestic abuse and neglect.

We support sex education in schools that teaches boys and girls about consent.

Law and order politicians, police and prison operators wring their hands over certain acts of violence against women and rail against men they call “monsters” and the “worst of the worst” to justify their expansion of state violence.

They oppose therapeutic work with perpetrators as “soft on crime” and scorn attempts at restorative justice and violence prevention programs that demand true accountability from violent men and challenge private and public sexism.

Sexual violence will not be ended by simply locking up dangerous and alienated men after they have committed atrocities and then releasing them, unaccountable and unsupported, to commit more and worse offences after further dehumanisation in jail.

The Socialist Alliance believes that sexual violence can only be ended by guaranteeing women’s rights to a liveable income, secure housing, free and high quality health care including abortion on demand and unrestricted reproductive choice.

We fight for equal status for women in public and private life. We think free, quality child care, education, aged and disability services should be the top economic priorities for the whole society and not private burdens shouldered by women.

Paid parental leave — fully paid by employer contributions to a publicly managed scheme — would help to achieve equality in the workplace.

We work in unions, social movements and in international solidarity towards these goals. We stand in elections at all levels on these policies. Two of our members have been elected to local councils — Sue Bolton in Moreland in Melbourne and Sam Wainwright in Fremantle WA — and they fight for these demands in local government.

We recognise that, here and now, women are suffering sexual violence and they must be supported to escape and survive. We fight for reform of the appalling criminal justice system that is often their only recourse, but at the same time we organise for its abolition and replacement by a system based on the only guarantee of safety for all of us — human solidarity.