This will happen to 7 in 10 women worldwide. Today we need to talk about it.

Today is White Ribbon Day, which represents the international day for the elimination of violence against women.

Women and men are encouraged to wear a symbolic white ribbon every November 25th. The 25th of November also acknowledges the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence against Women which ends on Human Rights Day on December 10th.

The incidence of violence against women is difficult to accurately determine because so often it is hidden from sight and because so often the victims are afraid to speak out.

Although statistics on the prevalence of violence vary, the scale is tremendous, the scope is vast, and the consequences for individuals, families, communities, and countries are devastating. According to UN Country data, up to 70% of women will experience violence in their lifetime and an estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

Domestic violence is a global problem. It is easy to associate high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault with women and girls in the developing world or regions torn by conflict. Yet in Australia the rates of violence against women remain unacceptably high, especially for those most vulnerable in our society.

Senator Claire Moore

In the developing world the threat of violence is acute. Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, more than two-thirds of them are women and girls.

But despite the gravity of the statistics there is hope. In Parliament last week I met Phyu Phyu who spoke to a Parliamentary Group on Population and Development briefing.

Phyu Phyu is working in Myanmar with a network of NGOs to establish legislation targeting violence against women. There are currently no laws in Myanmar that address domestic violence.

The National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women 2013-2022 by the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar was launched in 2013.

The National Strategic Plan has the objective to enable systems, structures and practices for upgrading the status of women and ensuring the equal rights of all people in Myanmar.

Most men and women in Myanmar are not aware of the rights of women and the Government’s obligations to protect people from discrimination. Myanmar is a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Eliminate all Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) however people are without the knowledge or language to demand better treatment. Notions of gender and gender equality are considered to be foreign concepts with little meaning or relevance in Myanmar.


People fear that the concept of gender equality could ruin Myanmar’s culture and family structures. The Government of the Republic of Myanmar appointed its first woman minister in 2012. At the moment only 4.6% of seats in parliament are held by women.

The first part of the challenge is the legislation itself; the second is its implementation.

Work is being done by heroes like Phyu Phyu to engage male leaders to challenge negative masculine stereotypes and to reflect on the importance of women’s leadership and there are attempts to promote male role models who support women’s participation in public life and condemn violence against women. Of course violence against women is not limited to developing countries. And this is exactly how White Ribbon Day works in a domestic context.

White Ribbon Day is about engaging men in this process. Addressing violence against women should not be relegated to some sort of ‘women’s issue’ in the corner – men and women, boys and girls need to tackle this problem together. Stopping violence against women is not just for the benefit of women –our whole community, and our whole family, benefit.

Violence against women in Australia may not be as severe as that in the developing world but violence against women and their children was estimated to cost the Australian economy $13.6 billion in 2008-09. In 2005, over 350,000 women experienced physical violence and over 125,000 women experienced sexual violence.

Relationships must be based on respect. If there’s respect, there isn’t violence. Every woman and man should be able to be safe, they should feel safe, and any violence, particularly gender based violence, is wrong. Women and girls must know they are safe in their communities, workplaces and homes.

It’s wonderful to see all the White Ribbons on the 25th.

The Parliamentary Group on Population and Development in Conjunction with CARE Australia produced a video on the size and scope of the problem of violence against women last year. You can see the scale of the problem we face here

Senator Claire Moore, Labor Senator for Queensland and Shadow Minister for Communities, Shadow Minister for Carers and Shadow Minister for Women and Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate has been engaged in White Ribbon Day since its beginnings in Australia in the early nineties.

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