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March4Justice returns as women make safety and equity election issue

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As Women’s March 4 Justice prepares to take to the streets again on Sunday, February 27, this year women are demanding that the next federal government lead a review of sexual assault laws, secure increased funding for domestic violence, and introduce a national Gender Equality Act.

“Last year’s march was a catalyst for women and their allies to pull together and get organised” Janine Hendry, whose tweet sparked the snap march, says.

“This year, on the anniversary of that historic march, women are asking what’s improved? What’s changed for the better? They will be taking these questions with them to the ballot box.”

Organisers are expecting tens of thousands of women and allies to participate in the February 27 events across Australia, including a live streamed event to be hosted by TV favourite, Shelley Ware.

This federal election, women will not be smiling and asking for change – we will be in the streets and online, demanding reform to end gendered violence, deliver real justice, and secure safety at work

Melbourne March4Justice organiser, Bronwyn Currie

The events mark a year since the snap march sparked amid news of systemic sexual assault and harassment at Parliament House, including Brittany Higgins alleged rape.

“This federal election, women will not be smiling and asking for change – we will be in the streets and online, demanding reform to end gendered violence, deliver real justice, and secure safety at work,” Melbourne organiser Bronwyn Currie, says.

“Let’s be really clear – the collective anger we saw motivate tens of thousands of people to flood the streets this time last year has not gone away, it hasn’t blown over, and it’s not a niche issue for a select few.

“From Brisbane to Bega, Perth to Melbourne, Sydney to Adelaide organisers in every state have been inundated with interest.

“We believe more people will be involved this year than we saw last year – that’s how big it’s getting.”

Organisers are still finalising the permits for major marches in the larger cities.

A live list of events can be found here, and is being updated daily.

Based on a petition that garnered more than 100,000 signatures, Women’s March4Justice has four key demands in 2022.

The organisers are seeking a commitment from all political parties that whoever forms the next government will not only introduce a National Gender Equality Act, but implement all 55 recommendations from the Australian Human Rights Commissions’ Respect@Work report and lead a national review of all the Attorney-Generals to review and reform criminal justice.

“With 90 per cent of sexual assaults going unreported the justice system is not working for victims.

“Grace Tame’s work highlights the inconsistent laws on sexual assault crime across Australia,” Currie says.

“Currently there is no consistent legal definition of sexual intercourse or consent, nor is there a standard approach to how we treat victim/survivors and how they give evidence – meaning victims are often retraumatised throughout the justice process.

“We shouldn’t accept that the criminal justice system has to be this way.”

The March4Justice also want to see permanent, consistent funding for domestic and family violence support and prevention services.

March4Justice is seeking:

Safety for all women, including:

  • an end to racial violence against First Nations women by the state, including the end of the removal of babies and children from their mothers, and forced assimilation policies;
  • Increased, secure, and longterm funding for domestic and family violence prevention and support services, including specialist services for children, Indigenous women, women with disability, and women from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, women in aged care, and for trans and gender non-conforming people, as well as perpetrator intervention programs.

Safety at work, including:

  • The full implementation of all 55 recommendations from the Australian Human Rights Commissions’ Respect@Work report of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020;
  • Address in all forums the gendered violence and inequality that affects members of LGBTQI communities.

Real action to end gendered violence and promote gender equality across Australia, including:

  • Independent investigations into public entities and public office holders for all cases of gendered violence, with referrals to appropriate authorities and full public accountability for findings;
  • Establishing a national Gender Equality Act to promote gender equality in public institutions and public policy;
  • A change to budget policy and practice to promote gender equality and economic growth.

Criminal justice reform, including:

  • Criminal justice law reform with a consistent national approach to domestic and family violence protection orders and offences, and sexual assault laws and sentencing;
  • A national review, led by all Attorney’s-General to develop new approaches to sexual assault trials and criminal procedure and systems that are survivor centred, and address bias in the law;
  • Support the ALRC Report Pathways to Justice Report and the justice reforms for Indigenous Women.

For more information on this year’s March4Justice on Sunday, February 27, click here.

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