International Women’s Day – PART 2
By : Kittu Randhawa
International Women’s Day was celebrated around the world on March 8th.
A growing number of celebrations to mark International Women’s Day allowed many platforms for the issues faced by women to be brought to focus.
For Sub-Continent Women in Australia, however not much has changed. Last month we looked at how this community faces systemic discrimination – intended or otherwise. This month let’s look at what is happening within the sub-continent community.
There is no doubt that domestic violence and abuse have firmly made their place on people’s agenda. Several events around International Women’s Day demonstrated that the Sub-Continent Community are keenly promoting and holding events.
While events have been plentiful, it is disappointing to note that platitude still takes precedence over practical support. From community associations to self-proclaimed community sector experts “awareness” is the buzz word. From public halls to places of worship this is the offering women are getting as a form of help.
The community sector takes the approach that there is a system and let’s assume it is all fit for purpose – even though everyone knows it isn’t. The Sub-Continent community seems to take the approach that indeed there is a system and all we need is awareness for people to go and use it.
This is absurd, when clearly there is a profound lack of prescribed or appropriate services that address the issues faced by the Indian Sub-Continent community.
One such fundamental issue is the unpleasant and shameful factor of discrimination from within, from men; yes, we all know about that but also from women.
How can a system which only sees the problem as one that comes predominantly with a male perpetrator incorporate the social dynamics of female: provocation, social isolation, abuse and violence [that is so prevalent in the Sub-Continent]?
It’s a common enough phrase ‘naari hi naari ki dushman hai’, so why is there so much pretense that this is not the case when we talk about domestic abuse or violence in the open forum? How is it that the focus from these events is solely on the female victim to seek help but not identify the female perpetrator?
Regularly it is seen that the abuse of women is influenced or provoked by other women, too often Sub-Continent DV victims tell stories of how they are ostracized or verbally put down by other women when they are in fact going through some of the worse times of their lives and need support.
In this community, man or woman if you are going through a crisis particularly domestic, despite whatever help there may or may not be, one thing is for sure. People from your own community will relish every detail, gossip, see the worst in the situation and judge people regardless of their own shortcomings and this is often (not always) led by women.
It’s not a pleasant subject to confront and certainly not one that many women want to acknowledge. It is however reality.
For education and awareness to even begin to take effect, there is a long way to go before we can run a session in a community hall and just talk about the options for victims. Before that, we have to face the fact that there are people amongst us who will quickly jump to add to the abuse without the faintest idea of the damage they do or the consequences to the individual. All while they are congratulating themselves on their morals, high standards, ill-conceived or farfetched notions of decency.
How do we recognize such people? It’s easy; they are people who claim to be religious; they talk a lot about respect and decency; they have kids; they live in your neighborhood, work at your workplace. They could be stacking shelves at your local Woolworths, serving at your local bottle shop or even running their own small business. Truth is; such people move and operate like everyone else so it’s hard to know who they are until the damage is done.
Community attitudes play a great part in domestic violence and abuse, it affects how perpetrators behave and why victims see no point in trying to get help. We need to deal with community attitudes.
So does the recent spate of awareness sessions on domestic abuse include these specific topics? Of course not! Instead it’s back to piling more pressure on the victim to become aware that they need to do something to help themselves.
The sad reality is that many women who are victims are already very aware that they often fall outside of eligibility for services; they cannot report abuse to police and expect help. When they do and nothing happens it only serves to deteriorate their situation more.
Awareness may tell women that abuse is wrong and it’s unacceptable and what the different types of abuse are; social, physical, sexual, emotional, financial, psychological etc. But what services are there for a woman who is controlled financially by her partner? None, this is putting the cart before the horse. It can be irresponsible to put out a message without avenues for support firmly in place.
The clear message is that we need to highlight the deficiencies in the system and tell Governments that talk is simply not enough – we need services!!!