By JULIE MCKAY
I am not sure that gender equality has ever been more widely debated in the mainstream media as it has been in the last 12 months. Mainstream media is paying attention to women’s issues, and women’s media outlets are finally getting the attention and credit they deserve. Among this increased attention are reports of issues affecting women every day in Australia and overseas, such as the pay gap, balancing work and family, and violence against women. If any women’s issue has grabbed the nation’s attention in the past six months, it’s violence against women. The gang rape and death of a young student in India, Malala Yousafzai shot in the head by the Taliban, a woman burned alive for ‘sorcery’ in Papua New Guinea, the tragic and cruel death of Jill Meagher. The coverage of these high-profile cases is very important, however we must not lose sight of everyday stories of neglect and violence which so rarely make the news. I wonder what it would take to turn momentary public outrage about specific incidents into a lasting drive for change and world free from violence.
After all, we don’t have to look very far to find such cases of systemic, repeated violence. A woman denied access to her money by a controlling spouse, a woman forced into sex by a man who believes it to be his right and her duty, a woman who knows that if she disagrees with her husband or father or makes him angry, his anger will become physical; a girl whose genitals are cut off in the name of her ‘honour’ . The instances of violence prevent women and their children from living full lives, free from fear. One in three Australian women will experience violence in her lifetime. Not all of these instances will be headline-grabbing. All of these instances however are worthy of our attention. All of these women are victims of unthinkable, unacceptable crimes. All of these cases would never happen in a world that valued men and women’s lives equally.
Both the ‘sensational’ and the ‘pervasive’ instances of violence are equally unacceptable and both must be prevented. However by focussing solely on the sensational, or international instances of violence, we can fool ourselves into believing that violence is someone else’s problem, another country’s problem certainly not our problem.