Associate Professor JaneMaree Maher marks the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence which falls each year between 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 10 December, Human Rights Day. The Monash Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Research will hold a forum on Friday December 9 exploring the shift from toleration to rejection.

In the last decades of the 20th Century and early decades of the 21st Century, globally and in national domains, responses to family violence have been prioritised and improved.

Social attitudes and legal systems that once accepted this type of gender-based violence are now being confronted. Community views have moved from tolerating this violence, to recognition of the widespread harms and damage caused.

There is now strong support to eliminate family and domestic violence, reflected in international conventions, government policies, strengthened service responses and social and political commitments to stop the violence that occurs in families.  

Yet to ensure that safety and security, particularly for women and children, can be achieved and sustained, more needs to be done. As one of the key recommendations of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence urges, there is a fundamental need to prioritise primary prevention as part of an effective and sustained response that aspires to eliminate violence against women.

The support and attention focused on the prevention of family violence at this moment in time is an amazing opportunity to ensure that what is now described, as a national emergency of endemic proportions becomes a relic of the past.

Primary prevention aims to address the underlying causes of family and domestic violence: it asks us to see the ways in which existing gender structures and the lack of gender equality enable or allow gendered violence to occur and continue. Access to inclusive education, economic resources, housing, health services, and sustainable work that also sustains families are an integral part of primary prevention.

To eliminate family violence, our education systems, our social supports, our workplaces, our welfare system, and our courts need to understand how gender and power operate to create risks for women and children within families.

We need to mobilise opportunities in every social and legal context to build a gender equitable community where everyone can be secure and safe. We need to confront sexism and misogyny wherever it occurs. Importantly we need to increase our recognition of how cultural and social differences, such as ethnicity, disability and poverty, alongside histories of colonialism, influence or change the risks diverse women may face and their opportunities to be safe and secure.

Building a gender equitable, open and inclusive society where difference and diversity are respected has to be embedded in all of our responses to family violence.

In an event on December 9, Primary Prevention of Family Violence: From Toleration to Rejection, a panel of national and international explore the pathways towards a categorical rejection of the gender attitudes, practices and biases that currently underpin violence against women. 

Assoc Prof JaneMaree Maher is Director at the Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, Sociology, Monash University.

The Centre's annual public lecture will be held at the Victorian State Library from 1200 - 200pm, and will feature Professor Sandra Walklate (University of Liverpool & Monash University), Professor Elizabeth Sheehy (University of Ottawa), Professor Jude McCulloch (Monash University) and Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon (Monash University)

Posted by @jrostant