On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we at CourtHeath want to highlight how participation in the United Nations #16daysofactivism, the Respect Victoria’s Respect Is Campaign, and the Gender Equality Act 2020 can help contribute to a future free of violence against women and girls.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual campaign that begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs through to International Human Rights Day on 10 December. This year, the theme is “UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”.
Violence against women and girls remains the most pervasive human rights violation around the world. Already heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, its prevalence is now being further increased by the intersecting crises of climate change, global conflict and economic instability.
Since the pandemic began*:
- 45% of women reported that they or a woman they know has experienced a form of VAWG
- 7 in 10 women said they think that verbal or physical abuse by a partner has become more common
- 6 in 10 felt that sexual harassment in public spaces has worsened.
Despite these troubling trends, violence against women and girls is preventable.
UN Women states: “Supporting and investing in strong, autonomous women’s rights organizations and feminist movements is key to ending violence against women and girls. For these reasons, the UNiTE Campaign theme for 2022 will call for more support to activism to prevent violence against women and girls.”
UN Women list 10 ways to end violence against women:
- Speak up, speak out: Amplify your voices, share your stories!
- Know the issue – and the signs: Violence against women takes many forms. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic and or social.
- Call out sexual harassment: Create a safer environment for everyone online and offline by challenging your peers to reflect on their own behaviour and speaking up when someone crosses the line.
- Challenge beliefs on masculinity: Toxic masculinity drives violence against women.
- Fund Women’s organisations: Investing in women’s movements matter, consider donating to organisations that empower women.
- Call for better responses and services: This means shelters, hotlines, counselling and all support services need greater backing.
- Demand more data: Data collection is key to understanding the full extent of the problem and implementing successful prevention measures and providing the right support.
- Push for stronger laws: We need strong protection mechanisms to prevent and eliminate violence, harassment, threats, intimation and discrimination against women.
- Support women’s leadership: Women’s representation in decision-making spaces helps to ensure that the needs of women and girls are front and centre.
- Build solidarity with other movements: We’re stronger when we work together.
Gender Equality Act 2020
In Victoria, the Gender Equality Act 2020 commenced on 31 March 2021 with the aim to improve workplace gender equality in the Victorian public sector, universities and local councils.
According to the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector, the Act promotes gender equality by:
- Requiring the Victorian public sector, local councils and universities to take positive action towards achieving workplace gender equality.
- Requiring these organisations to consider and promote gender equality in their policies, programs and services.
- Establishing the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner to provide education, support implementation and enforce compliance.
Objectives of the Act include:
- promote, encourage and facilitate the achievement of gender equality and improvement in the status of women
- support the identification and elimination of systemic causes of gender inequality in policy, programs and delivery of services in workplaces and communities
- recognise that gender inequality may be compounded by other forms of disadvantage or discrimination that a person may experience on the basis of Aboriginality, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation and other attributes
- redress disadvantage, address stigma, stereotyping, prejudice and violence, and accommodate persons of different genders by way of structural change
- enhance economic and social participation by persons of different genders
- further promote the right to equality set out in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Victoria’s Social Procurement Framework
Victorian government tenderers need to demonstrate how they implement the Social Procurement Framework (SPF). One of the 10 SPF objectives is women’s equality and safety for which suppliers are encouraged to demonstrate adoption of family violence leave and gender equality employment practices.
Victoria’s Building Equality Policy
Effective from 1 January 2022, the Victorian government Building Equality Policy (BEP) promotes gender equality in the construction industry by creating training and employment opportunities for women through government on building and infrastructure projects. The BEP seeks to disrupt existing gender stereotypes, norms and roles in the construction sector. It is implemented through the SPF. BEP requires construction contractors to implement three actions that seek to address the structural and cultural barriers women face:
- meet project-specific gender equality targets
- engage women as apprentices and trainees
- implement a Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP).
Respect Victoria is focusing on their ‘Respect Is’ campaign to Respect Women: ‘Call It Out!’
Respect Victoria states: Respect is the building block of all healthy relationships.
“Choosing to lead with respect in our relationships, workplaces, schools, universities, and homes can ultimately prevent family violence and violence against women.”
How can you get involved?
- Join the Walk Against Family Violence on Friday 25 November to take a stand on preventing violence against women – register via the Safe Steps WAFV website.
- Join an event near you. There are over 60 events taking place right across Victoria. Explore the events calendar on Safe and Equal’s website.
- Share your Stories of Respect messages. Throughout the 16 Days Respect Victoria will be releasing stories from everyday Victorians who are taking steps towards equality in their communities. Find them on Respect Victoria's Instagram and Facebook.
- Wear Orange: Orange is the colour to represent a brighter future free of violence against women and girls, says the UN and UN Women.
Speaking up and calling out disrespect can be a small way to advocate for women and minorities. Respect Victoria outlines 16 ways to call out sexism and disrespect – Call it out!:
- Don't laugh at sexist jokes.
- Give a disapproving look to show a behaviour or statement is not okay. Shake your head or roll your eyes.
- Leave a pointed and uncomfortable silence.
- Make a light-hearted comment: “What century are you living in?”
- Check in with the person affected: “I heard what he just said – are you okay?”
- Privately let them know their behaviour is not okay: “The joke you made in yesterday's meeting was not funny, and actually it was not okay.”
- Calmly disagree and state that the comment is wrong or unacceptable: “I know you probably didn't mean it, but I found what you said to be offensive.”
- Speak up and educate by explaining why you disagree: “Actually evidence shows the vast majority of women do not make up false claims of sexual assault.”
- Challenge the logic: “That's not my experience” or “What makes you think that?”
- Stand up for the person affected: “Michelle was saying something, and you cut her off again.”
- Make eye contact with the person affected – let them know you're an ally.
- Show your emotion: “It actually makes me sad / uncomfortable when you say that.”
- Support others when they call it out: “I agree, that's not funny.”
- Appeal to their better self: “Come on, you're better than that.”
- Report the behaviour to management, or via incident reporting systems if available.
- Disrupt or distract the situation to redirect the focus from the incident to someone else.
- International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (UN)
- In focus: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (UN Women)
- Push forward: 10 ways to end violence against women
- 16 Days of Activism 2022 – Respect Women: ‘Call it out!’ (Respect Is)
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* Source: UN Women (2021). Measuring the shadow pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19
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A participant in the UN Global Compact, CourtHeath seeks to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Global Compact with business and government organisations in Victoria.
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Image: UN Women
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