Domestic violence has been described as an "epidemic" in Australian society. But freelance writer Bec Zajac says the key to ending violence against women has been well known for some time.
The very public death of 33-year-old Fiona Warzywoda, who was stabbed in a central shopping precinct in Melbourne’s western suburbs on April 16, shocked the community. Since then, we have seen a spate of articles calling for tougher punitive measures, more forceful policing and stricter enforcement of existing laws surrounding domestic violence.
But what has been absent from the coverage is the fact that we actually know what is needed to eradicate violence against women: the elimination of sexism and gender inequality across society.
For the past few months, I have been investigating violence against women and reporting on initiatives to combat its devastating impact on Australian lives. The project, in co-operation with Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism, draws on the domestic violence sector for direction in determining how the issue can best be covered and which aspects warrant greater media attention.
What has astonished me is that a problem that seems at first to be so amorphous and difficult to fix is actually well understood by those working towards its elimination.
Violence against women has been proved to be caused by three factors: gender inequity, supportive attitudes towards violence and a rigid adherence to gender roles. Put simply, the more sexism and gender inequality that exists in society, the higher the levels of violence against women.
A report from Unifem,
the United Nations Development Fund for Women, plots gender equity and violence from a variety of international sources. Countries with the greatest equality between the sexes -- Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, for example -- are among those with the lowest rates of violence against women. Conversely, where the gender gap is widest, such as in Yemen, Pakistan, Chad and Syria, rates of violence against women are highest. Australia ranks mid-stream in much of the data ...