If you were sexually assaulted by a member of your school sporting team, would you want to cheer for them when they played? Would you expect your school to uphold your rights over those of your attacker? If the school failed to uphold your rights, would you then expect the courts to find in your favour if you sued? The answers to these questions should be obvious, but this is not an exercise in rhetorical questioning.
A group of women teamed up at Tram Stop 1 on the corner of Bourke and Spencer streets on July 22 to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of a protest against women’s unequal pay by women’s liberationists Zelda D’Aprano and Bon Hull. D'Aprano and Hull boarded a tram but refused to pay the full fare. The “equal pay team” talked to commuters on the busy city tram and shared views on why women are still receiving unequal pay in Australia.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the millionaire former president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and leader of France’s center-left Socialist Party, is charged with raping a west African immigrant housekeeper in a five-star Manhattan hotel. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr seems like he wants to make the whole case go away. After initially agreeing to US$1 million bail and house arrest, Vance arranged for Strauss-Kahn to be released without any bail. The press reported prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers met about a deal in which the case would be dropped.
Pro-choice campaigners and activists will assemble outside a fertility control clinic in East Melbourne on July 23 for several reasons. The clinic is under constant harassment from far-right Christian groups, including Right to Life and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. These groups rally outside the clinic every fourth Saturday of the month, and sometimes on weekdays too. These groups mobilise their members to harass not only women using the clinic, but also women who just happen to walk past.
Feminism is experiencing a revival in Adelaide with the formation of a new activist group, the South Australian Feminist Collective. The group emerged from a feminist forum jointly hosted by Socialist Alliance and Femment, which followed the recent Adelaide “SlutWalk” march against sexual assault and victim-blaming. The forum explored the politics of this event and the relevance of feminism today. About 30 people attended the collective’s first meeting on June 25. The meeting began discussion about how the group would be run, its aims and values.
The June 10 Sydney Morning Herald said that a study released by the National Union of Students (NUS) that day indicated a “surprisingly high proportion of female university students have been sexually assaulted, stalked or sexually harassed”. The article mentioned an Australian Defence Force Academy student who, after being raped, had experienced attitudes of “just get over it” from fellow students — a culture of silence surrounds such attacks.
Swiss women and a major Swiss union held a national day of action on June 14 for wage equality for women and for a minimum wage of US$4000 a month for all workers. The minimum wage that the union and women are seeking would be the equivalent of $48,000 a year. The minimum wage is now $3000 a month, which was won in the 1980s. Switzerland has one of the highest costs of living in the world.
SlutWalk has become a global phenomenon since Canadian policeman Constable Michael Sanguinett told a campus safety meeting “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”. Big SlutWalk rallies have retaliated against this victim-blaming that police, courts, and governments perpetuate. People have protested in Canada, Mexico, London, Amsterdam, the US, London and Australia. Homemade placards denouncing sexual violence, supporting consensual sex and rejecting victim blaming were displayed at all the rallies.
About 500 people took part in a June 11 march to demand an end to victim blaming in sexual assault. This was followed by a screening of the film War Zone in the Adelaide Activist Centre. About 30 people attended. The film screening was jointly hosted by the Socialist Alliance and the Femment Feminist Collective. It was followed by a discussion on the politics of Slutwalk and the future of feminism. From the discussion the South Australian Feminist Collective (SAFC) was founded. All in attendance joined the contact list.
As part of a nationwide day of action, more than 1000 people marched on the Victorian parliament on June 8 to fight for state and federal governments to back their claim for increased wages. The Melbourne rally was one of 17 across the country, organised by the Australian Services Union (ASU), which advocates for workers in the female-dominated community services sector. The national day of action comes as a response to Fair Work Australia’s finding that the sector’s workers were not being payed enough, in part, because most of them are women.