Over 100,000 Australians recently demonstrated across the country on the March4Justice, demanding an end to sexual violence against women. The demonstrations took place in capital cities across the country, including a large rally at Parliament House in Canberra on 9 March.
Capturing the anger directed at the Australian Prime Minister, one sign read: “So I have to be your wife or daughter for my rights to matter?” Socialists stand with those marching for justice, and we also point to the need for a new society as the only way to rid ourselves of sexism and other forms of discrimination.
The catalyst for the protests has been the crisis plaguing the government Scott Morrison leads. Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins opened the floodgates of anger when revealing that, after reporting an alleged sexual assault by another staffer, she was treated as a political problem. Since then others have come forward.
Reports then emerged that a senior minister in the government was the subject of a historic rape allegation. The minister has since been revealed as Attorney-General Christian Porter. He denies the allegations and is on leave. The woman tragically took her own life, and the allegation was never formalised with the police.
As no police investigation can proceed, there have been calls for an independent investigation to determine if Porter is a fit and proper person to act as Australia’s first law officer. The government has resisted these calls, and now Porter has launched a defamation case against the journalist who broke the story.
With the government in management mode and refusing to acknowledge and act on the issues at hand, people took to the streets to demand change.
The March4Justice organised around four key demands:
Full independent investigations into all cases of gendered violence and timely referrals to appropriate authorities. Full public accountability for findings.
Fully implement the 55 recommendations in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work report of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.
Increase public funding for gendered violence prevention to the world’s best practice.
The enactment of a federal Gender Equality Act to promote gender equality. It should include a gender equity audit of Parliamentary practices.
These demands, modest in their scope, have nonetheless met with silence from the federal government.
The Prime Minister refused to meet the marchers on their terms, offering a last-minute private meeting, which organisers rebuked. While protesters raged outside the building, Morrison rose in parliament to lecture those assembled outside they should be grateful they were not met with a volley of bullets. These comments only act to anger protesters even more and reinforce their demand for urgent change.
Capitalism seeks to divide workers, wielding sexism to drive divisions in the working class, as a whole. The crisis facing the current government underlines the urgent need to build a new party that stands for the rights of women, people of colour, workers, and the environment. We must link up our struggles behind the common banner of socialism. Ultimately, only socialism offers a lasting way forward.