Page 4438 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

I suppose what we are seeing here in these open democracies is that at least the issue has been identified and is certainly being dealt with. God knows what the depth of this problem is in those countries that are not open.

As a leading nation, as a leading democracy, Australia has a role to play. Again, we can do that without being arrogant, but we should be persistent in influencing those nations with whom we have some influence, to address these sorts of problems. My wife has told me some harrowing tales of things she witnessed in her first country as she grew up, where direct physical and sexual violence may have occurred. But that is not even the issue; there is also the issue of psychological violence in those sorts of countries, in states such as Yemen and other older states where women are contained or periodically jailed. You cannot describe it in any other way—they are periodically jailed and prohibited from acting in a more wholesome way in their societies and making strong contributions to their societies. It is a major concern.

The removal of repression of women, and their democratisation in conflict zone countries and in some of these emerging democracies, is very, very important and will go a long way to progressing conflict resolution in those countries. If you empower women in these countries and give them stronger leading roles in developing their countries’ social and economic structures, while the old fellows up on the hill put their guns down, this surely goes a long way. These are some of the challenges that international NGOs have found themselves embroiled in over the last years.

I will finish by saying that I am going to very happily write a card back to Amnesty International and that will be addressed to the Japanese Prime Minister to urge him to do something, to influence him to do something, about the outstanding issue of comfort women—those Korean, Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian women who, whilst they must now be quite old, still carry the stigma of those issues. I will not read what the card has to say, but it is a very well-designed card and I congratulate Amnesty International Australia. I will sign it—I encourage my colleagues to do the same thing—and send it off to Amnesty International to put further pressure on the Japanese government. White Ribbon Day is a very, very important day. There are many things that we can do as men and people of all gender to make a contribution to resolving these issues.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.15): I would like to thank my colleague Ms MacDonald for bringing this very important issue to the attention of the Assembly today. White Ribbon Day is an affirmation of the rights of all women and children to be free from violence. It also provides an opportunity for us, as men, to stand up in opposition to violence against women.

Violence against women is a global phenomenon and, disturbingly, it is not stopping. Despite widespread attention at international and grassroots levels, there is no sign of a significant decrease in such violence. The United Nations estimates that globally more than one in three women and girls are sexually abused or beaten in their lifetime—such a significant number and one that certainly makes me think twice about the message of the elimination of violence against women. In the words of Kofi Annan:

Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries or geography, culture, or

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .