Campaigners have said a national women’s safety summit starting in Australia Monday should urgently look at ways to reduce family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financial security, policing, sexual violence and challenges facing diverse members of the Australian community are key topics at Australia’s National Summit on Women’s Safety 2021.
It’s run by the federal government, which said the conference would help form “the next National Plan to end violence against women and their children.”
The Minister for Women, Marise Payne, said previously that “everyone has a basic right to safety, equality and respect in our society.”
But campaigners have urged the government to do more to curb domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. A report published in June by Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Justice found that domestic abuse surged during lockdowns.
One of its authors is Professor Kerry Carrington.
“We discovered that there was not only an increase in the severity of domestic violence as well as its prevalence, but we also discovered, much to our surprise and shock, that perpetrators have been using COVID lockdowns to actually extend their coercive control over their partners. So, clearly the context of COVID; the financial, the psychological, the mental pressures of COVID, being locked down in the home with children has really exacerbated the prevalence of domestic violence,” Carrington said.
The university report made several key recommendations, including that governments should be better prepared for increases in family violence during and after significant events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof. Carrington hopes the women’s safety summit can deliver concrete results.
“Everybody is wanting a better national plan. Everybody is wanting one that takes violence against women seriously that sees it as a number one government priority, that invests in prevention, invests in new services,” Carrington said.
In June, figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the number of domestic violence-related sexual assaults recorded by the police increased by 13% in 2020.
The charity, Mission Australia, said family violence is “disturbingly common.” It said that in 2019 about one in four women, or more than two million Australians, “experienced violence by an intimate partner.”