Is that this Australia’s turning level on sexual harassment, assault? | Sexual Assault Information

Canberra, Australia – Australian politics appear to be facing a reckoning after a wave of allegations of sexual assault and harassment committed by several politicians and staff in the parliament building in the country’s capital.

So far, allegations have been leveled against a male political officer who allegedly raped a female colleague in 2019, against Attorney General Christian Porter, who was accused of sexually assaulting an acquaintance when they were both teenagers in 1988. and a senior aide to an MP who allegedly molested several teenage girls.

“There was a sudden surge of women in parliament in the 1990s, but even now only a quarter of politicians are women,” Blair Williams, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, told Al Jazeera.

“Our parliaments are about the representation of men by men. It’s a toxic culture that excludes women, which results in what we saw recently become possible. “

Just weeks after child sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year, former Liberal Party worker Brittany Higgins went public on allegations that she was raped in the House of Parliament in March 2019 been.

Higgins had just started working for Secretary Linda Reynolds. Less than a month into her role, Higgins says a senior male employee assaulted her late that night on a couch in Reynolds’ ministerial office. The man was fired the following week for a security breach referred to by Reynolds, who is now Secretary of Defense.

Two issues are at the center of this initial scandal: first, how a young woman could be raped in the Parliament building herself, and second, how the ruling Liberal Party dealt with the incident.

Higgins said she received little support and felt that reporting the incident to the police would end her career and negatively impact the elections just months away.

Three other women have since made allegations against the same man.

The attorney general faces questions

Less than two weeks after Higgins made her allegations, the House of Parliament was shaken again. This time, a senior minister was charged with raping a 16-year-old woman during a debate over a competitive competition in 1988.

The man was initially not mentioned in the media due to Australia’s strict libel laws, but after days of rumor, Attorney General Christian Porter identified himself as a defendant. Porter would have been 17 years old at the time of the incident.

Both Porter and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have repeatedly denied the allegations. Morrison has also so far refused to conduct an independent investigation into whether Porter is an appropriate person to hold the position of attorney general, the nation’s first judicial officer.

“[Porter] is a good attorney general, “Morrison told the media on Wednesday. “He’s an innocent man under the law.”

BREAKING: Read the full story of James Hooke’s account of relevant revelations by Addlaide women in 1989 and 1990 here. We asked @cporterwa for a comment

– Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) March 12, 2021

Porter’s accuser committed suicide in June 2019, meaning the allegations cannot be brought to a criminal court. Similar problems arose during the trial of former Melbourne Archbishop George Pell for child sexual abuse, in which one of two alleged victims also committed suicide.

Meanwhile, allegations have surfaced against Frank Zumbo, a senior advisor to Craig Kelly, a Liberal MP. Six young women have filed formal police complaints against Zumbo, saying he was physically and verbally inappropriate with them.

One woman, Anna Hobson, was just 16 years old when she was interned in Zumbo’s office. Hobson told ABC Australia that young female interns had to greet Zumbo with hugs and kisses, and that he had touched her inappropriately on multiple occasions.

Parliament’s working culture

Zumbo has denied all allegations but has been under police investigation since April 2019. A violence arrest order prohibiting him from walking within 100 meters of a former intern has already been issued.

The Morrison administration has now appointed Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins to conduct a review of Parliament’s working culture. It is expected to submit a preliminary report by July and full results by November.

“In my time in this field, and especially in my 30 years at work, I’ve never seen a moment like this,” Jenkins said in an interview with ABC.

“We are at a turning point.”

Australian Attorney General Christian Porter leaves a press conference in Perth earlier this month after posing as an unnamed cabinet minister accused of raping a 16-year-old girl [File: Stefan Gosatti/AFP]Allegations that Australia’s political culture is sexist and unsafe for women are nothing new. In October 2012, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard accused then opposition leader Tony Abbott of sexist behavior towards her. Gillard was often focused not only on being a woman, but also on being single and not having children.

“I am not being taught sexism and misogyny by this man. I won’t, ”said Gillard in her famous speech. “If he [Abbott] wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a proposal in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror. “

Gillard delivered the speech not long after House Speaker Peter Slipper was accused of sending sexually explicit messages to a male aide. Slipper later resigned.

Toxic environment

Experts say women’s participation in Australian politics has never really been welcomed and this has contributed to the continued toxic environment.

ANU’s Williams draws attention to a viral petition from current and former students in New South Wales asking for earlier sexual consent education. Thousands of testimonies from women to the petition state that they were sexually assaulted and molested by students in private and selective boys-only schools.

“It is from these schools that the men who become politicians come,” said Williams.

“It is no wonder what is happening in the parliament building, considering that schools direct men to the parliament building.

“Men want to take responsibility, so they create support institutions and networks that promote men’s power over others,” she added.

“Porter has wanted to be prime minister since childhood … they are encouraged to be there to rule over others.”

‘Boys’ clubs’

Suffragettes across the country have expressed dismay that there will still be institutional cultures in Australia that support sexual violence in 2021.

“We cannot just rely on politicians to regulate themselves and ensure the security of parliaments,” said Tanja Kovac, CEO of Gender Equity Victoria.

“If parliaments continue to ignore how they perpetuate gender inequality through their own behavior and rules, we will continue to see cultural issues that lead to sexual and gender-based violence.”

Green spokeswoman for women Larissa Waters agrees that the government needs to do more to change institutional tendencies to become “boys’ clubs”.

Mr Porter’s statement is a message to all sexual assault and rape survivors that this government does not believe them. It will have a chilling effect on survivors and will almost certainly prevent others from coming forward, “Waters said.

“I hope the Prime Minister pays some attention. The rule of law has been broken when it comes to rape and sexual assault.” @ Hughriminton’s powerful address to Scott Morrison on #TheProjectTV

– The project (@theprojecttv) March 4, 2021

At the March 3 press conference where he tearfully denied all allegations, Porter said he “always obeyed the rules” and was wrongly targeted.

“If I resign from my position as Attorney General because of an allegation about something that just didn’t happen, any person in Australia could lose their career, their job, their life’s work based on nothing more than an allegation that comes up in press.” said Porter.

“I suspect that if I resigned and set a new standard, there wouldn’t be much need for an attorney general anyway, as there would be no rule of law to protect it in this country.”

Sexual harassment and violence are widespread in all areas of Australian life.

One in two women and one in four men in Australia has been sexually assaulted, according to the 2016 Personal Safety Survey.

In 2017, police recorded 25,000 sexual assault victims, while data from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare found that 17 percent of women had experienced sexual violence [Loren Elliott/Reuters]In 2017, police recorded 25,000 victims of sexual assault, while data from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare found that 17 percent of women had experienced sexual violence.

Indigenous activists say no one should be really surprised at the allegations of sexual violence against the Australian political class.

“This country is unsafe for women, sexually violated and non-binary people. Even more so if you are transgender, have no money or are Aboriginal and the Prime Minister’s comments reinforce the toxic culture that made this possible, ”Indigenous activist Meriki Onus wrote in IndigenousX.

“Those who want to silence us do not see how closely all facets of violence and injustice are connected and where they come from in this country. The Predatory Sexual Violence We See [today], started with colonizers. “

ANU’s Williams also emphasizes that sexual violence is not limited to just one political party, it is just politics itself.

“It’s a broader societal problem of rape culture, misogyny and patriarchy,” she said.

“These are the issues we need to address at all stages of life, from early childhood, to get the message across that sexual violence is wrong.”

Nationwide protests are planned for March 14th and 15th, including in Parliament House in Canberra.

Thousands of people are expected to join.

“The current uprising is something I thought I would never see again,” said Biff Ward, a 1970s women’s activist who will speak at the Canberra March.

“Each wave does something profound that builds on what came before.”

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