Stereotyping clouds thinking over relationship violence, says CLA member Roger Anthony Smith.  The Australian Government has no place funding and promoting biased campaigns that support one sex while stigmatising the other – that’s against basic human rights.

Comment, sent to FaHSCIA*, by Roger Anthony Smith**, CLA member

25 September 2008

To: women@fahcsia.gov.au

 

The above-referenced campaign was recently brought to my attention from a speech given by the Prime Minister Mr Rudd in connection with a White Ribbon Day campaign event on 17 September 2008 in Sydney.

As a human rights lawyer who worked for many years to advance the cause of human rights under the Soeharto regime in Indonesia during the 1990s, it is a matter of great concern to me and to thousands like me that the Australian Government would support any campaign that so obviously violates the rights of half the Australian population by blatantly discriminating on the basis of sex.

To make protection of a right to freedom against violence conditional on a person’s sex – as this campaign so obviously does – is one of the most offensive insults against human rights principles and common decency that I have seen since my return to Australia in 2004. It is no less offensive than saying, for instance, that black people have to be re-educated to stop them committing violence against white people without saying anything about the obligations on white people not to assault blacks.

Your campaign is saying to me as a man that I have no right to protection from domestic violence because I am a man. And believe me there are many, many male victims of violence and abuse in Australia at the hands of their wives and girlfriends. There were over 200 posts to that effect on the http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24397363-5007146,00.html website today alone.

Your campaign is in violation of Australia’s international human rights obligations and needs to be immediately either withdrawn or changed to expunge the offensive sexist intent to demonise men whilst legitimising any partner abuse involving male victims.

Nearly every rigorous, population-based academic study undertaken in the English-speaking world has shown that there is no major difference in the perpetration and victimisation rates of domestic violence as between men and women (although women victimisation is higher in cases that get reported to police and hospitals).

If you seriously are concerned about human rights I suggest you read this article: “Partner Violence and Mental Health Outcomes in a New Zealand Birth Cohort” by Fergusson, Horwood & Ridder published in the Journal of Family and Marriage (vol. 67. no. 5, Dec 2005, pp. 1103-1119).

Partner abuse is harmful and must be stopped regardless of who the perpetrator is.

The fact that your campaign has the support of the Australian Government and the Prime Minister does not intimidate me and others like me. In fact, it strengthens us. We will still stand up for our rights.

Men, and indeed most fair-minded women, will continue to support the proposition that human rights – and particularly the right to protection from violence and abuse in relationships – are never, and can never be, conditional on sex, race or religion.

– Roger Smith, CLA member, Gordon ACT

* FaHSCIA: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)

** Roger Anthony Smith was originally trained is a lawyer. He worked for nearly 10 years to further human rights in Indonesia and Timor Leste. After returning to Australia in 2004, he was national research officer for Relationships Australia for two years and now works on skills and labour issues for the Australian Government, while continuing to work, as a member of CLA, on liberties, rights and equality issues

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