From International Law to an Immigrant Farmer: The multilevel approach to addressing violence against women.

Mathew Kennedy, Central Queensland University

On a brisk morning in The Big Apple, Global Voices Scholars made their way to the United Nations Headquarters to begin a once-in-a-life time opportunity to attend the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63). Social Protection and the access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for women and girls was the theme for CSW63, which allowed for a diverse range of issues to be discussed within official meetings, side events and NGO parallel events. 

The first side event attended was the ‘The Council of Europe Istanbul Convention: a global instrument for preventing and combating violence against women and girls’. The Istanbul Convention in 2011 became the product of the Council of Europe and has since been ratified by thirty-four European countries. This convention is the first of its kind by holding ratifying states accountable through a comprehensive legal framework to address violence against women. Panelists explained that the convention addresses gender-based violence through prevention, protection and prosecution. A topic of focus was the role of prevention under the convention. It was outlined that 41% of perpetrators of sexual violence against women did so because they were bored and needed something to do.  Statistics such as this demonstrate that the empowerment of women and girls is only the first step in addressing violence against women. The engagement of men and boys through education and counselling attacks this issue at its core by providing a proactive solution.

 ‘Sexual Harassment in the workplace – global perspective’ saw the Australian delegation contribute to the gender-based violence theme. The topic of this side event resulted from an announcement in June 2018 by Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to commence the National Enquiry into Sexual Harassment within Australian Workplaces conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Kate began the event with the personal story of Ishaani, a Cambodian immigrant worker seeking opportunities as a fruit picker in rural Australia. Ishaani was unfortunately molested by a contractor at the farm she was working on. Due to language and cultural barriers and threats by her perpetrator to get her fired, this behaviour continually until a local workers union became involved. Sexual Harassment in any context has been a taboo topic for far too long and without organisations such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, it can be easy for government to not provide recognition and support to women such as Ishaani.

While reflecting on my time at CSW63, it is inspiring to see women and men from countries all around the world, either sponsored by their respective governments, NGO’s or most importantly by their own funds advocating for gender equality because ‘when we exclude women, everyone pays the price. When we include women, the whole world wins’ – Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.