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Women's rights - not as safe as we assume.

10/02/2017
We often assume that women's rights, like wine, will mature and improve over time. The truth is that both are influenced by many factors and require significant effort, commitment and financial investment to achieve and maintain.
 
There is a lot of chit-chat in the social media sphere right now about how the global rise of the far right is threatening the hard fought for gains made in the past 50 years for women's rights. 

In the case of Russia, all it takes is the vote of the 383 seat State Duma to decriminalise domestic violence in cases 'where it does not cause substantial bodily harm' and does not occur more than once a year. Before you ask, there are 61 women in the State Duma (13.6%) - and only three people voted against the legislation. The vote reverses the decision made last year to retain criminal charges involving battery against family members. Advocates say it is not acceptable for the state to intervene in matters of family discipline, despite statistics from the Interior Ministry that show 40% of all violent crimes are committed within the family. This equates to 36,000 women being beaten by their partners every day and 26,000 children being assaulted by their parents every year.

In the case of America, all it takes is the stroke of a President's pen that bans any group funded by the US from disucssing, advocating or facilitating abortion. Known as the 'global gag rule' the ban particularly affects international planning organisations who fund sexual and reproductive health outcomes for women around the globe.

In the case of Australia, we would seem to be far better off than many women around the globe. While this is undoubtably the case, it is worth noting that we have slipped to a ranking of 46 on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report. Tellingly we rank 1 for education, but 42 for economic participation / opportunity and 61 for political empowerment. 

All of which is slightly worrying with the politics of the hard-right coming more sharply into focus in Australia via One Nation, disaffected Liberal, Cory Bernadi, and others in the ALP and Liberal parties. Ideology is alive and well and it may come at the expense of equity.

Many women these days decry the feminist tag, saying we are past all that nonesense and equality of the sexes in Australia is here to stay. Is this the case or have we assumed that general equality produces an outcome of gender equity? Because all the statistics - both national and international - show us that it doesn't.

As the Russian and US examples show, it is very easy to have so-called and hard-won women's rights removed by a single vote or the stroke of a pen. Australia needs to ensure the rights of women continue to be restated and new, more equitable, ways of working and living achieved. The discussion is reaching a more mature stage in our workplaces, but the danger is that it may been seen as 'no longer needed' and inherent gender biases will end up being part of the wallpaper - part of the way business is done.

I am reminded by events overseas that we need to constantly challenge ourselves to look to ways in which we can further equity and inclusion in our society, so that the women who come behind us continue to reap the rewards of those who came before us.
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