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Gender equality must remain on the national agenda to prevent violence against women: Our Watch

April 22, 2020 / Our Watch media

Our Watch is urging all parts of our society to remain committed to addressing gender inequality in order to prevent violence against women.

A visualisation of the COVID-19 virus
Visualisation of the COVID-19 virus by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said Australians had worked effectively with government to flatten the curve and we could all be proud of that. However, our response to COVID-19 could unintentionally reverse decades of progress towards gender equality unless governments, workplaces, institutions and our communities remained committed to this goal.

“Given crises disproportionately affect women, often lead to increases in violence against them and exacerbate existing gender inequalities across society, we cannot take our foot off the pedal in striving for long-term and sustained cultural change,” Ms Kinnersly said.

Ms Kinnersly said it was also important to remember that although situations of social isolation, heightened stress and increased financial pressures could exacerbate the underlying conditions that led to violence against women, they did not drive it.

“For example, men who lose their jobs may be stressed, but this is no excuse for violence. To prevent violence against women, we must address the longstanding gender inequality that is the underlying driver of this violence,” she said.

Ms Kinnersly said the immediate safety of women must be prioritised, and response and crisis services should be well resourced, particularly given the increase in demand at this time.

“We must also keep our eye on our shared endeavours to stop this violence happening in the first place by promoting and normalising gender equality across all settings; this is key to preventing violence against women,” Ms Kinnersly said.

“Australian workplaces, sporting organisations, education facilities and the media have undertaken significant work to promote the equal distribution of economic, social and political power and resources between women and men and contribute to a community that does not accept violence against women.

“As we emerge from COVID-19, that important work must continue.”

Specific actions include:

  • Governments must ensure that measures responding to COVID-19 are developed with a ‘gendered lens’ (i.e. ensuring they do not inadvertently disadvantage women and that they address any emerging inequalities).
  • Workplaces must do all they can to ensure flexible working arrangements as both men and women juggle caring responsibilities while working from home in addition to updating relevant policies (i.e. domestic and family violence leave).
  • Businesses rebuilding from the economic impacts of COVID-19 should consider updating or initiating policies and practices that embed gender equality.
  • Individuals should be good bystanders and call out online harassment and abuse.
  • Media can take additional care to report ethically on violence against women and on the gendered impacts of this crisis.
  • Governments should also introduce specific measures for those who already experience higher rates of violence or disadvantage – for example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities and/or migrant and refugee women – to ensure the COVID-19 crisis doesn’t deepen existing social inequalities.

“In order to prevent violence against women, we need to continue on the path we’ve started and redouble our efforts to promote and embed gender equality – both in government policies, and everywhere we live, work and play, despite those parts of our society currently looking quite a lot different than usual,” Ms Kinnersly said.

Media contact

Saraya Musovic, Senior Media and Communications Advisor (saraya.musovic@ourwatch.org.au or 0448 844 930) or media@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:
“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.

About Our Watch

Our Watch is a national leader in Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the practices, norms and structures that lead to violence against women and children.