EDITORIAL: The White Ribbon campaign and a safe world for women

OVER a quarter of a century, the White Ribbon movement has made huge inroads into changing mainstream attitudes toward male violence against women.

Although White Ribbon Day, on November 25, is the natural focus of an annual campaign, the time has come to accept that every day is a white ribbon day, and that there are never any excuses for men to resort to physical or psychological violence in their relations with women.

Sadly, when we look around the world, we are forced to realise we’re a long way from the white ribbon dream of women, everywhere, living without the fear or expectation of being hurt or killed by a violent male. Whether it’s an honour killing in Pakistan or a beating from a husband in suburban Australia, the threats remain.

The statistics are disturbing. So far this year, 68 women have died at male hands in Australia, according to Destroy The Joint, a social movement started in 2012 in response to a misogynistic rant from shock jock Alan Jones against Julia Gillard. The World Health Organisation says violence against women – especially “intimate partner violence and sexual violence” – is one of the planet’s major public health problems.

But if violence against women is still pervasive in some corners of Australian society, we should celebrate some substantial attitudinal shifts in recent years.

Not so long ago, many were still arguing that violence inside a relationship – domestic violence, in other words – was a private matter: the state should have no role in regulating what was viewed as unfortunate, but still ultimately acceptable, behaviour.

Not any more. Whether it’s a suburban rugby league team proudly playing its part in the code-wide “Voice Against Violence” campaign, or a primary school ethics class learning the basics of respect from early on, attitudes and beliefs are steadily changing.

In our region, a trial of a new domestic violence program in the Port Stephens police command will see likely perpetrators of domestic violence offered behavioural classes to help them change their old modes of behaviour. As White Ribbon ambassador and former Newcastle Knights player Clint Newton says, the women of our community are relying on men to stand up and do the right thing.

A good place to start is to treat others as you would wish them to treat you.

Whether they are male or female.

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