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Violence against Women

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 18 October 2018

Tags: Sexism, Women, Family Violence

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to speak on behalf of women and girls everywhere, to acknowledge the contribution of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition last night and to acknowledge that Ms O'Byrne has a proud history of advocating for women and girls, for gender equality, for an end to violence against women and girls.

We are a parliament with equal representation. That is a fantastic outcome and it has improved to some extent, the way parliament operates. We are not there yet. Mr Barnett and I have had an exchange in this place, relating to his comments on Brett Kavanaugh, the united States Supreme Court Justice. His views on Justice Kavanaugh, who was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of a violent sexual assault are an example of what parliaments and MPs should do everything they can to avoid in order to progress the cause of gender equality and an end to violence towards women and girls.

The Kavanaugh case brought to the fore, and this is not just in the United States, but around the world, the fact that women and women's rights have taken steps backward in recent times, particularly with the elevation of Donald Trump to the presidency, a sexual predator, who is the President of the United States of America, a man who denigrated Christine Blasey Ford, following her testimony. She was a victim of sexual violence and she was shamed in front the world by the President of United States no less.

This kind of victim and slut shaming, as it is known, distrust and manipulation of fact, only creates fear among women and girls in our community. It does not make people feel any safer.

We have the latest Police Fire and Emergency Management annual report. On page 33, public safety and the percentage of the population in Tasmania who feel safe walking locally during the night. No surprises, but in Tasmania people feel more safe walking the streets at night. What we know from these figures is that only 60 per cent of women feel safe walking home at night. The good news is that Tasmanian women feel 7 per cent safer than the national average, but it is far from okay on our streets.

Our office received an alarming report earlier this week of a devastating incident that happened in the past few weeks in a Hobart suburb. A teenage girl was walking home from a house party. She was drugged, tied up and raped against a fence. That is here on our streets. That is someone's young daughter that is someone's precious little girl who will suffer the consequences of that violence for the rest of her life. It is a terrifying and graphic example of how attitudes towards women can infect our society and increase the risk of violence towards women and girls.

In her book On Guard, published after her public stoush with Senator David Leyonhjelm, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young talks about the sexist treatment and language she has endured and continues to endure through her career.

There is a letter here from a 17-year-old Hobart girl.

High Sarah, I am not sure whether you will read this but here goes anyway:

I am 17 female from Hobart, Tasmania, in grade 11 and I am sick of men degrading women. One week ago my boss, an older man, called me and two other young girls in the workplace bitches to our faces, twice in the space of a few minutes for absolutely no reason at all, other than to refer to us. I was taken aback and luckily it was at the end of our shift so I left as quickly as possible. It made me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. I spoke to a few people I trusted about the comments he made and I was told, 'He is just an old man that does not know any better, and, 'You will have to put up with this for a long time yet, and 'Pick your battles'. So I dismissed the whole incident. I dismissed being called a bitch by my own boss.

This morning I listened to the news and heard what David Leyonhjelm said. Then I heard you speaking up for us, for all the women who get slut shamed, abused and degraded, for all the women who do not have the platform to speak out. You have made me think twice about the comments my boss made and I do not think I should dismiss his behaviour any more. I believe this is where it starts. Dismissing one seemingly flippant comment because it is not worth the hassle and soon women all over the world are dismissing a society that degrades women. I am so over accepting unacceptable behaviour. So thank you for standing up for us. Thank you for helping me understand that this is not okay. That it is not okay to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed and that I can make a stand. I do not know where to from here. I am scared of speaking out, but I know enough is enough because this is where it starts and this is where I want it to end. Thank you.

Madam Speaker, I commend Sarah Hanson-Young's book to the House. The experiences of these two girls who I have talked about tonight while very, very different stem from the same thing - sexism, misogyny, a power imbalance created by gender. That is why what we say inside and outside Parliament matters. When we say what we say we have to mean it and we have to continue to be advocates for women and girls, for their equal treatment and for safe spaces for all Tasmanians.