Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Howard, Integration and Gender Equity

I wish I could safely say that the PM’s mass debate over the 1% non-integrated of the 2% of Aussies who tick the “Muslim” box on the census forms is well and truly postponed. Sadly not. With interest rates going up and the ALP gaining bigger majorities in state elections, Muslim-bashing has become the PM’s pastime.

However, it is a good idea to re-visit one theme the PM raised. Laurie Oakes in The Bulletin claims that the PM’s notion that “people who come from societies where women are treated in an inferior fashion have got to learn very quickly that that is not the case in Australia” is “motherhood stuff”.

Yeah, right. Try telling that to all those mothers and other women too frightened to use Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders in NSW (or their equivalent in other states and Territories).

The PM’s claim that women aren’t treated in an inferior fashion in Australia makes me wonder which Aussie women he’s talking about.

OK, it’s true that Australia has banned that disgusting tribal practise of Female Genital Mutilation (which, even according to self-proclaimed ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali says isn’t a religious practise). Yes, most Aussie blokes don’t go bashing daughters and sisters for chatting up some dude.

We only do that when we are pissed, stoned and/or psychotic enough. Last year, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics released a report suggesting reported domestic violence rates across NSW had increased by 40-50% in the past 7 years. Reported incidents. Who knows how many women are too frightened to report.

In a society where women are bashed so frequently by their partners, it just isn’t possible to say women are treated as equals. The problem is that people keep treating domestic violence as a women’s issue.

When women are bashed and abused, it isn’t just the primary victims who suffer. Other men (fathers, sons, brothers) are also affected. And it is only when men take responsibility for this issue that things will start to change.

Each year, UNIFEM organises White Ribbon Day to campaign for the elimination of violence against women. Australian men wear white ribbons to show they oppose violence against women. A white ribbon is not a badge of purity or perfection. It simply says you believe that violence against women is unacceptable.

To get involved in the UNIFEM campaign, click here.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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