Philippa Moss on gender-based violence prevention

1 December 2017

To coincide with 16 Days of Activism and World AIDS Day, Philippa Moss, Executive Director of AIDS Action Council ACT, contributed the following blog post. It outlines the ways in which violence impacts not only women and men, but also non-binary and gender diverse people, and discusses preventative actions that we can all take today.

We are just past the half-way mark of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence promoted by UN Women. From 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day), international focus and attention is drawn to issues of gender-based violence.

This year’s theme: “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls”, will no doubt draw criticism from those who see the focus on gender based violence against women to be discriminatory and short-sighted.

The statistics illustrate the extent to which the experience of violence in Australia is affected by gender. Women are far more likely to experience violence from men they know in their own home.

The recent Personal Safety Survey results released by the ABS showed that two in five people over 18 years had experienced an incident of physical or sexual violence. Four in ten men and three in ten women experienced physical violence and one in five women and one in twenty men experienced sexual violence. More than one in three Australians had experienced violence by a male perpetrator since the age of 15 compared to one in ten by a female perpetrator.

The type and location of violence experienced by men and women is different. Around one in four women experienced violence by an intimate partner, compared to one in thirteen men.  Men were far more likely to have experienced violence by a male stranger and away from home. Women were most likely to be physically assaulted by a male that they knew in their own home. Women were nearly three times more likely to have experienced partner violence than men and eight times more likely to experience sexual violence by a partner than men.

Take that in for a moment: the place a woman is least safe is her own home.

This is the majority story, but not the whole story. It does not tell the story of non-traditional and non-binary genders, who are likely to experience much higher rates of physical and verbal violence, and far less likely to report that violence and to be adequately represented in mainstream statistical samples.

However, the gendered nature of violence illustrates that gender inequality drives violence.

One step towards eliminating violence based on gender, is to promote true gender equality not just along a binary understanding of gender (male/female, boy/girl), but across all experiences and expressions of gender.

Research suggests that violence of all types is most likely to occur when one group sees it has the right to exert power over another simply because of the inherent characteristics of both groups. If we see each other as equal, regardless of gender identity, gender differences do not play out in the use of violence to assert power and control.

Preventing violence is not about gender but about re-balancing power, including the gendered exercise of power. So why should this be a focus on World AIDS Day and for the LGBTIQ communities?

The LGBTIQ communities know what it is to experience violence based on who they are. They know that the societal perceptions held by those in positions of power render them “less than”, and push them into degrading positions that aim to control and oppress.

In the face of considerable resistance and violence, LGBTIQ communities mobilised to take action in support of ending the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma. These communities mobilised to take back the language and epithets directed at them and make them words of empowerment and change. LGBTIQ communities worked to equalise power, and change the narrative.

Equally LGBTIQ communities have permission to mobilise to take action to support violence prevention, equalise power, and change the narrative. As advocates for the dignity, rights, and well-being of the whole community, in all aspects of life and at every level of society, LGBTIQ communities are committed to eliminating violence for all.

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