Socialist candidates say: Stop violence against women, fight sexism

Sarah Hathway is standing in the seat of Geelong.

Sarah Hathway, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong, and Sean Brocklehurst, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale, released this statement on October 16.

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We strongly support the Reclaim the Night marches organised across Victoria and the world. Violence against women is endemic to the sexist culture promoted by our oppressive, exploitative, capitalist society. Vibrant public campaigns protesting such violence can help win better safety and rights for women, and are an important part of the struggle for a better world.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey (2005) found that half a million Australian women experience physical or sexual violence or sexual assault each year. It also found 64% of physical assaults against women occur in the home.

This level of violence has widespread and tragic results. Domestic violence is the leading cause of death and injury in women under 45, with more than one woman murdered by her current or former partner every week. Victorian crime statistics show an alarming rise in recent years in “threats to kill”, reaching 4893 in 2012-13. Most relate to domestic violence and most are made by men.

Capitalism fosters the oppression of women. Unequal pay and the fact that women still do most the unpaid labour of raising the next generation of workers mean extra profits for big business. Politicians promote the traditional family and the corporate media sell sexist, exploitative images of women. Girls are sexualised from a very young age.

Stereotypes abound that assign men power, aggression and dominance and portray women as passive, submissive and subordinate. In this social context some men see women as their property to use and abuse.

As violence against women is a systemic, social problem we reject simplistic “law and order” solutions. Many women have little confidence in the justice system: the ABS Personal safety Survey reports that 64% of women who experienced physical assault and 81% of women who experienced sexual assault still did not report it to police.

The Victorian government claims increasing penalties and rolling out CCTV cameras will prevent violence against women. But this is about increasing the state’s coercive powers rather than addressing the problem. A 2009 Cambridge University report by David Farrington found the installation of 4.2 million cameras across Britain at a cost of $1 billion did “next to nothing to decrease crime”.

Socialist Alliance Moreland councillor Sue Bolton opposed council spending on more CCTV cameras for Sydney Road last year, saying measures such as better street lighting, late night buses, family violence services, and better education were more effective.

The Socialist Alliance demands that governments urgently put resources into such measures. We also argue that fighting for women’s rights generally will make the world safer for women. A 2012 Cambridge University study of 70 countries by Mala Htun and S Laurel Weldon found strong feminist movements were the most important factor in leading to change that decreased violence against women.

From Reclaim the Night marchers, to unionists campaigning against sexist harassment in the workplace, to left wing Kurdish women and men fighting misogynist “Islamic State” thugs, the struggle against violence against women is part of the struggle for a better world for all the exploited and oppressed.

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