Even in the context of intimate relations, violence and the threat of violence is overwhelmingly gender-specific, reflecting traditional patriarchal domination not yet extirpated. That sense of vulnerability recognises the high exposure to risk, the comparative lack of control (in part for physical reasons) and the perceived seriousness of the sexual dimension of violence. Women clearly have a heightened awareness of risks to personal safety of other family members or close friends – sometimes called a form of ‘altruistic fear’. For all these reasons, the fear dimension of threats to personal security is not gender-neutral.
All legal systems have well-established laws designed to protect persons from physical violence. Legal prohibition of threats of violence, and other forms of fear-inducing conduct which intimidate individuals, is not so clearly established. There is a patchwork of criminal offences relating to intimidation, harassment, blackmail, threats and other such conduct. Yet there is no systematic approach to these matters in any field of discourse, including threats of violence against women.
Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
The violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. An important step to help yourself or someone you know in preventing or stopping violence is recognizing the warning signs listed on the
ANYONE CAN BE A VICTIM! Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about the violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems.
If you are being abused, REMEMBER
Unfortunately, they often face life-threatening, gender-based violence and disproportionately experience violent crimes because of hatred and racism (Fact Sheet: Violence Against Aboriginal Women , 2013).
The 2013 analysis found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almost twice as likely to experience depression and problem drinking.
SEXISM IN THE European cultural tradition has in the past decades been targeted on a broad front, including with respect to violence against women. There are, however, important racial, ethnic and religious minorities in Australia who come from nations with sexist traditions. Violence against women is significantly greater in some social groups, whether based on cultural tradition or not. This dimension of the issue may well involve conflicts between values that are difficult to resolve.
Although not limited to violence against women, or indeed to domestic violence, AVOs have played an important role in giving some measure of comfort to women threatened with domestic violence. They are not always effective, but research suggests that AVOs have had a significant effect in reducing both acts and threats of violence.
The significance of fear was recognised in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Womenadopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1994, by defining ‘violence against women’ to encompass threats of gender-based violence and coercion. Australia’s accession to the Optional Protocol means that matters of this character can now be considered by way of complaint by Australians to the Committee for CEDAW, as has long been the case with respect to the Human Rights Committee under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
HUMAN RIGHTS DEBATES have not given fear, particularly fear of violence, adequate attention. Fear is of particular significance to all forms of violence against women, particularly domestic violence.
It is the deficiencies in the convention that have resulted in the attempt to stretch the concept of discrimination beyond its natural borders. CEDAW is not an adequate international standard. It seems inappropriate that violence against women is only regarded as a human rights issue insofar as it is ‘discriminatory’. Everyone has a right to be free from violence or the threat of violence.
The human rights instrument directed expressly to the position of women is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of 1979. This is an acceptable, but flawed, international model. It is flawed because of the need to obtain agreement from many nations, including those whose cultures permit conduct towards women that we would regard as discriminatory. The range of nations, particularly in Africa and the Islamic world, with customary and social practices that were problematic because of gender bias meant that the drafting process led to major compromises. The 1999 Optional Protocol to CEDAW provides for complaints directly to the CEDAW Committee after domestic remedies have been exhausted, making the complaints process comparable with other international treaties. In December 2008 Australia acceded to this and a joint statement by the Attorney-General and the Minister for the Status of Women said the protocol would ‘send a strong message that Australia is serious about promoting gender equality and that we are prepared to be judged by international human rights standards’.
The way violence and the fear of violence is directed to women raises significant human rights issues. Only in recent years has this been recognised. A number of submissions to the National Human Rights Consultation, for example, identified violence against women as a human rights issue. The recommendations did not specifically refer to the position of women in this respect, although the recommendation that a Human Rights Act protect the right to liberty and security of persons may encompass an individual right to be protected from violence.