Joining the dots . . . gender, power and violence against women

Last week I was invited to deliver a workshop at the Annual Conference of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion held at the Australian Catholic University. For Thursday’s line up of international and national speakers the link between gender, power and violence against women and children was background noise, regretfully expected and, not shocking enough, to warrant any serious consideration.

They talked of nuclear armament, the Middle East, gun control, obstacles to disarmament. In turn each speaker failed to notice the obvious – women rarely manufacture, sell, buy, or use weapons, yet women are disproportionately affected by the arms trade and in particular, by the proliferation and misuse of arms and weapons.

A gender analysis can help us understand how weapons are used—and against whom and why. And, illuminate some of the connections between masculinities and ‘gun cultures’ that promote the possession and use of weapons. As well, help demonstrate that the enshrinement of nuclear weapons as an emblem of power is both a ’cause’ and ‘consequence’ of low levels of women’s participation in political, economic and social decision-making and, in fact, participation in day-to-day life.

What can be done to shift a dominant metaphysic which reduces violence against women to an after-thought; a footnote? Lots, as it turns out.

Societies that link stereotypical negative attitudes about females with violence against women are making headway in tackling the problem. One global leader in this regard is Australia. Australia has unified its largely autonomous states and territories around a national action plan to end violence against women and children.

The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne and, more recently the Faith Communities Council of Victoria, Victorian Council of Churches, Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Wesley Mission Victoria, and the Islamic Council of Victoria, have teamed up to promote interventions that support gender equality and that prevent violence against women by challenging rigid stereotypes that give men power over women.

The struggle to end gender-directed violence will take time, but the strategies can be straight-forward once we join the dots between gender, power and violence against women.

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